As you may have heard in the media in recent days, several medicines containing the ingredient valsartan are being recalled by their manufacturers. An impurity, N-nitrosodimethylamine (NDMA), was found in the valsartan used in some batches of these products. Six companies have affected products, which are being recalled. It is important to understand that not all valsartan products are impacted, and, as we currently understand it, only certain batches of the impacted manufacturers’ medicines are affected.
Medicines containing valsartan are used to treat patients with high blood pressure to help prevent heart attacks and stroke. These drugs are also used in patients who have had heart failure or a recent heart attack. NDMA is a potential human carcinogen, which means that it could cause cancer with long-term exposure. We are working towards a clearer understanding of how long a person needs to be exposed to NDMA, or how much NDMA a person needs to be exposed to, to be at an increased risk of developing a cancer. Currently, based on the studies available, our understanding is that the risk of a person developing cancer after a relatively short exposure to NDMA is quite low. We will continue to keep the public updated if our understanding of this changes.
Our organizations are working together to address any patient concerns around this news and determining how to support patients who are taking valsartan based medications. It is important that patients keep taking their medicine if it contains valsartan, unless they have been told to stop by their doctor, pharmacist or other health care practitioner. If patients are taking any medication containing valsartan, they should speak to their doctor or pharmacist, who can tell them if their medicine is being recalled.
If you have been using an affected product, contact your health care practitioner as soon as possible to discuss your treatment options. We understand that patients and family members may feel anxious about this news and have questions. We are fortunate to be a part of a strong, collaborative local system, who are working together to address any questions or concerns that patients may have as a result of this recall, and to ensure that patients are receiving the best possible care in our community. However, in the meantime, unless told otherwise by your doctor, pharmacist or other health care practitioner continue to take your prescribed medicine.
You can access up to date information by going to the Health Canada website at https://www.canada.ca/en/health-canada.html