Benicar (olmesartan medoxomil) is a widely-used prescription medication used to treat high blood pressure, also known as hypertension, in adult and pediatric patients over the age of six. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved Benicar for the treatment of hypertension in 2002 and, in the years since, it's become one of the most-prescribed drugs in its class, with doctors writing more than 11 million prescriptions for it each year.
However, despite its popularity and widespread use, Benicar has been linked to a number of serious gastrointestinal side effects. If you were recently prescribed Benicar, here's what you need to know before taking your first dose.
How Does Benicar Work?
Manufactured by Japanese drugmaker Daiichi Sankyo, Inc., Benicar belongs to a class of medications known as angiotensin II receptor blockers (ARBs), which also includes the drugs Tribezor® and Azor®. These medications work by inhibiting the protein angiotensin II, which causes blood vessels to narrow, raising blood pressure and making it more difficult for the heart to pump blood through the body. Benicar's active ingredient helps keep blood vessels relaxed and dilated, improving blood flow. Lowering blood pressure is essential in the prevention of serious cardiovascular events, including strokes and heart attacks.
Benicar can be taken alone, or as part of a comprehensive blood-pressure lowering treatment regimen that includes a combination of other medications, antithrombotic therapy, and lifestyle changes, such as healthy diet and exercise, limiting sodium intake, and giving up smoking.
Side Effects Associated With Benicar
Although studies show that Benicar can be quite effective at helping patients with hypertension lower their blood pressure, studies also link the drug to a number of concerning side effects, including:
- Abdominal pain
- Rapid swelling of the skin, or angioedema
- Irregular heartbeat
- Chest pain
- Skin rashes
- Liver problems
- Kidney dysfunction, including kidney failure
- Hair loss
However, the most serious side effects associated with Benicar are gastrointestinal problems that mimic Celiac disease, a relatively rare allergy to wheat protein. Benicar-related gastrointestinal distress and Celiac disease share many of the same symptoms, including severe stomach pain and discomfort, chronic diarrhea, malabsorption of nutrients, and dramatic weight loss. So doctors will first perform tests to rule out Celiac disease before attributing symptoms to the use of Benicar.
Once Celiac disease has been excluded as a possible diagnosis, most patients are diagnosed with villous atrophy or sprue-like enteropathy. These conditions occur when the villi lining the intestines are damaged, whether by disease or, in the case of Benicar, a medication. Many patients find their gastrointestinal symptoms improve after stopping Benicar, although some patients may have symptoms for years and even require hospitalization.
Benicar isn't for everyone. For example, Benicar should not be taken with the drug aliskiren, which is also used for high blood pressure and hypertension, in patients who have diabetes. In addition, the medication isn't approved for pediatric patients under the age of six.
Women who are pregnant or nursing also shouldn't take Benicar. The FDA issued a black box warning for Benicar for fetal toxicity, meaning that the drug can harm or kill a developing fetus. As soon as they discover they're pregnant, women currently on Benicar should stop taking it and talk to their doctor about alternative treatment options.
Did You Experience Serious Benicar Side Effects?
Not all patients experience serious side effects while taking Benicar. However, for those who do, especially people who require hospitalization or the use of a feeding tube to combat dramatic weight loss and other symptoms, it may seem like will never be the same.
Fortunately, you don't have to suffer in silence. If your health problems are linked to usage of Benicar, you may be able to file a lawsuit against the manufacturer to seek compensation for both economic and non-economic damages. Contact McGartland Law today to schedule a free initial consultation to discuss the details of your potential Benicar personal injury lawsuit.