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Egypt’s Ministry of Health Recalls 14 Cancer-Causing Hypertension Drugs

The pharmaceutical industry has always had a knack for irony.

In a spot of slightly carcinogenic news this fine Thursday, The Ministry of Health’s Central Department of Pharmaceutical Affairs has pulled 14 high blood pressure (hypertension) drugs from shelves. This comes as a result of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s press announcement declaring drugs with the active ingredient ‘Valsartan’ to contain a potentially carcinogenic impurity called N-nitrosodimethylamine.

Valsartan is the active ingredient in many pharmaceuticals aimed at managing hypertension and congestive heart failure. Due to a contaminated batch of pills produced by China-based Zhejiang Huahai Pharmaceutical Company – one that’s been imported by Novartis for European and Asian countries – at least 22 countries worldwide have also been subject to the recall. Why is N-nitrosodimethylamine (NDMA) such a massive concern? Well it could be attributed to how scientists use it to initiate and induce cancer cell growth in laboratory tests. Yikes.

While Valsartan itself is a wonder drug for those afflicted with pervasive heart conditions, it’s not carcinogenic whatsoever on its own; it’s just that one bad batch that’s problematic, and though most publications and online news sources don’t mention Egypt in the recall, it’s easy to imagine several batches of the drug making their way to store shelves here, for one reason or another.

If you or somebody you know follow a drug regimen that includes Valsartan, it might be advisable to talk to your practitioner about a substitute (such as Olmesartan, Losartan or Amlodipine) till this whole cancer business subsides.

Main image from Reuters.