Published: Fri, July 13, 2018
Medicine | By Brett Sutton

Common heart drug recalled due to contamination with possible carcinogen

Common heart drug recalled due to contamination with possible carcinogen

Swiss multinational pharmaceutical compaany Novartis informed the ministry that their products containing Valsartan - Diovan, Co-Diovan Entresto and Exforge - are not impacted because these products do not contain the active ingredient from an external supplier.

Mina Tadrous, (pharmacy faculty, University of Toronto), explained that valsartan is a common drug used by people with high blood pressure. The company says that "no other Sandoz or Novartis products, even those that may contain valsartan, are affected by the recall".

The recall and review were sparked after Zhejiang Huahai Pharmaceuticals - the company that supplies the active ingredient for some valsartan medicines - detected an impurity, N-nitrosodimethylamine (NDMA), in their product.

While the review is underway, national authorities across the European Union are recalling medicines containing valsartan supplied by Zhejiang Huahai.

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


Health Canada describes NDMA as "a potential human carcinogen, which means that it could cause cancer with long-term exposure".

Over 484,682 kilograms of Valsartan have been imported to Korea over the last three years, according to the ministry, but only 2.8 percent, or 13,770 kilograms, contain ingredients from China.

"I'm astounded that carcinogens were found in medicine that is supposed to fix my disease", one patient said. It is also used in patients who have had heart failure or a recent heart attack.

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.

Health Canada is advising Canadians taking any valsartan drug to contact their pharmacist and health-care provider to determine what steps to take.

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