Popular Blood Pressure Meds Not Linked to Cancer, FDA
THURSDAY, June 2 (HealthDay News) -- A class of drugs widely
used to treat high blood pressure doesn't boost the risk of cancer,
as a recent analysis suggested, U.S. health authorities announced
The drugs are known as angiotensin-receptor blockers (ARBs) and
include medicines such as telmisartan (Micardis), losartan
(Cozaar), valsartan (Diovan) and candesartan (Atacand).
The determination comes from the U.S. Food and Drug
Administration (FDA), which just concluded a safety review of the
"It is comforting to have this data to support what we clinically felt was true," said Dr. Joseph Diamond, director of nuclear cardiology at Long Island Jewish Medical Center in New Hyde Park, NY.
FDA undertook the review after a meta-analysis appearing in July
The Lancet found a "modestly increased risk" -- about 10
percent -- of cancer diagnoses among people taking ARBs, and a
smaller increased risk of death from cancer.
Until that report, there had been very little concern about the
safety of the drugs.
"It's a drug that's been out for a very long time so we have a lot of clinical experience with it," Diamond said.
In fact, he added, many physicians were skeptical when the
Lancet findings were first announced. "That study really was
not designed to look for cancer," he said.
Dr. Cheryl Laffer, an associate professor of internal medicine
in the Texas A&M Health Science Center College of Medicine,
said that she and other physicians weren't worried when that study
came out, but many patients were.
"The ARBs are probably the most widely used class of medications for patients with high blood pressure," said Diamond. "They're used in patients with general hypertension and particularly in patients who may have hypertension with diabetes or hypertension with kidney disease."
The drugs are given once a day and have some added benefit in
protecting the kidneys from the ravages of high blood pressure and
diabetes, he added.
"They're better tolerated than ACE inhibitors [another type of blood pressure medication]" but have the same effect, said Laffer, who is also senior staff of medicine/hypertension at Scott & White in Temple. "Their side effect profile is no bigger than placebo."
The FDA review looked at 31 trials involving a total of more
than 155,000 patients who had been randomized to receive either
ARBs or another hypertension treatment.
As far as Laffer is concerned, the FDA report is definitive. "I
think they did their job. They looked at all analyses which had
used ARBs as compared to anything and they found no overall
increased risk. They looked at hundreds of thousands of people,"
The American Heart Association has more on
blood pressure medications.
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