UAE recalls some hypertension medicines over cancer fears

The recall is on medication containing valsartan which is used to treat high blood pressure.					Courtesy of Hope Litoff

The Ministry of Food and Drug Safety banned the import and sale of 115 hypertension drugs out of fear that they might contain carcinogenic ingredients.

Valsartan molecule structure. Drugs containing valsartan are used to treat patients with high blood pressure to help prevent heart attacks and stroke.

The valsartan active ingredient from the facility in China has been used by various pharmaceutical manufacturers to produce valsartan-containing medications in Europe, some of which are available on-island. Products have been recalled from a number of European countries, while certain national authorities, including in Hong Kong, Taiwan and Canada, have also issued recalls. For example, Swiss company Novartis informed the ministry that their products containing valsartan are not impacted because these products do not contain the ingredient from external suppliers.

"Despite the lack of conclusive evidence on whether NDMA is present in these products or whether they are truly risky, these measures were undertaken to pre-emptively protect consumers", a spokesman for the Ministry of Food and Drug Safety said on Saturday.

You should not stop taking your valsartan medicine unless you have been told to do so by your doctor or pharmacist.


However, not all Valsartan contains the carcinogen, only that made in China, the drug ministry noted.

"An impurity, N-nitrosodimethylamine (NDMA), was found in the valsartan used in these products", Health Canada said in a news release on Monday.

On Saturday, the Health Insurance Review & Assessment Service revised its Drug Utilization Review, a computerized pharmaceutical review system that oversees prescriptions, to display an on-screen warning when doctors try to prescribe a banned drug on their computers.

EMA's review will investigate the levels of NDMA in these valsartan medicines, its possible impact on patients who have been taking them and what measures can be taken to reduce or eliminate the impurity from future batches produced by the company.

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