Valsartan is an angiotensin II receptor blocker (ARB). Angiotensin II is a chemical in the body that narrows a person's blood vessels. An ARB works to block this narrowing effect. In turn, blood can flow freely through the blood vessels.
ARBs also prevent the heart from being overworked. When a person's blood vessels are narrow, the heart has to work harder to pump blood through the vessels. Ensuring the vessels stay open and clear allows the heart to work more efficiently.
Valsartan is sold under the brand name Diovan. It can also be found in generic formulas.
What Is Valsartan Used For?
Valsartan medication is approved to treat two main conditions:
Hypertension - Hypertension is also known as high blood pressure. ARBs are most often prescribed to treat high blood pressure. By preventing the narrowing of blood vessels, ARBs can lower a person's blood pressure.
Heart failure - Valsartan has been shown to reduce hospitalizations for heart failure.
For patients with left ventricular failure or dysfunction, valsartan can be useful after a heart attack. Valsartan can reduce these patients' risk of death from a cardiovascular event.
Valsartan is prescribed for use in adults and children over six years of age. It is not intended for use by pregnant or nursing mothers.
What Are the Side Effects of Valsartan?
Patients may experience any of the following possible valsartan side effects:
- Viral infections
- Abdominal Pain
- Joint Pain
- Back pain
These are the most common side effects experienced by valsartan patients. However, these are not the only side effects. Patients taking valsartan should consult their drug labeling for the full list of potential adverse effects and drug information.
Source: Diovan Drug Label
Is Valsartan Harmful?
All drugs pose some serious side effects and potential risks to patients. Valsartan is no different. However, in the last year, more people are questioning the safety of valsartan. This is due, in large part, to the discovery of contamination in generic valsartan drugs.
Because of the contamination, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced many recalls for generic valsartan over the span of a year.
The contaminants found in valsartan may cause cancer in humans. Valsartan patients who developed cancer while taking the drug are now filing valsartan lawsuits. These claims allege the drug companies are responsible for people's cancer diagnoses.
There are four main warnings that can be found on the valsartan drug label.
Fetal Toxicity - Valsartan poses serious risks to an unborn baby. Women should not take valsartan during pregnancy. Pregnant women should work with their doctor to find a safe alternative treatment.
Hypotension - Hypotension is also known as low blood pressure.
Kidney Problems - Valsartan increases the risk of acute kidney failure in some patients. The kidney function in these at-risk patients should be monitored while using valsartan.
High Potassium Levels - Some patients may see an increase in their potassium levels while taking valsartan. These patients may need their valsartan dosage adjusted. In some situations, patients may need to stop taking valsartan altogether.
For some patients, taking the following drugs or supplements while taking valsartan may cause adverse reactions:
- Potassium-sparing diuretics
- Potassium supplements
- Salt substitutes
- Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAID)
- Ace Inhibitors
- Other ARBs
There are several alternatives to Diovan or generic valsartan. Doctors will prescribe these to patients when valsartan causes too many side effects or is not effective for a patient. In the wake of the valsartan recalls, more patients are seeking safer alternatives. However, some of these other blood pressure medications have been implicated in the recall as well.
The FDA has created a list of non-contaminated valsartan drug alternatives. The complete list can be found here. Patients should consult a doctor before making any changes to their medications.
Valsartan Medication FAQs
Is Losartan the Same as Valsartan?
Losartan is not the same as valsartan. However, they are both ARBs.
Losartan medications were also affected by the contamination. Because of this, many batches of losartan drugs were recalled in 2018 and 2019.
What Class of Drug Is Valsartan?
Valsartan is an angiotensin II receptor blocker (ARB). For more information about ARBs and what they do, visit this section.
Is There a Difference Between Diovan and Valsartan?
There is no significant difference between Diovan and valsartan. Valsartan is the generic drug name for Diovan.