For the millions of patients worldwide who suffer from high blood pressure, the choice of taking medication places them between a rock and a hard place. On the one hand, prescription drugs may prevent potentially fatal heart conditions; on the other, the drug’s side effects could cause more health problems that are just as deadly. Many people taking Benicar® have experienced this dilemma firsthand, suffering intestinal side effects of Benicar and other hypertension drugs containing olmesartan.
What Is Benicar and How Does it Work?
Benicar (olmesartan medoxomil) was created by Japanese drug manufacturer Daiichi Sankyo, Inc. to treat high blood pressure. Nearly 50 million prescriptions for Benicar have been dispensed since the drug was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 2002, and over 11 million prescriptions for the medication are still written every year. Both men and women can take the drug, and it is even given to some pediatric patients between the ages of 6 to 16 who have hypertension.
Benicar and similar medications, including Benicar HCT®, Azor®, and Tribenzor®, all contain the active ingredient olmesartan—one of a class of drugs known as angiotensin II receptor blocker. Angiotensin II is a naturally-occurring protein in the body that causes blood vessels to narrow, increases sodium levels, and raises blood pressure. All of these factors place strain on the heart, making it more difficult to pump blood throughout the body. By blocking angiotensin II, olmesartan keeps the blood vessels dilated to help blood circulate more easily and reduce pressure on the cardiovascular system.
When Do Patients Start to See Side Effects of Benicar?
There are many different side effects of Benicar, but the most worrying are the effects the medication can have on a patient’s digestive tract. Patients may suffer gastrointestinal problems that mimic the symptoms of Celiac disease (wheat allergy), including chronic and uncontrollable diarrhea, stomach pain, and extreme weight loss. A combination of these symptoms is collectively known as sprue-like enteropathy, which can develop anywhere from a few weeks to several years after taking olmesartan. Patients who suspect that Benicar could be causing these side effects should be aware of:
- Celiac testing. Since symptoms of sprue-like enteropathy closely mirror those of celiac disease, patients should be tested for celiac before interrupting medication. If celiac is ruled out, other blood pressure medications should be considered.
- Nutritional deficits. Patients taking Benicar can develop a condition called villous atrophy, which damages the intestinal walls and prevents the body from absorbing the nutrients in food. Patients may have to be hospitalized to treat uncontrollable weight loss and malnutrition, causing unnecessary suffering and increased medical costs.
- Temporary effects. In addition to providing its own drug warnings to the Benicar label, the FDA recommends that patients taking olmesartan who suffer digestive issues should switch to another medication if no other cause of the distress can be found. Data from the FDA’s Adverse Event Reporting System (FAERS) found that patients who suffered late-onset diarrhea and significant weight loss due to Benicar were able to improve and even recover after discontinuation of the drug, making many of these side effects temporary.
- Dangers of discontinuing the medication. While stopping the medication may also stop its effects, it will also interrupt treatment of high blood pressure. Uncontrolled cases of high blood pressure can lead to sudden strokes and heart attacks, so patients are advised to speak to their doctors and obtain alternate medication for high blood pressure before discontinuing Benicar.
Help for Patients Who Have Been Injured by Benicar
If you or someone you love was seriously injured by a medication that was supposed to help them live their lives, we can help. The McGartland Law Firm has secured multi-millions of dollars in settlements for our clients, and we do not collect any legal fees unless we win your case. Call the number on this page today to speak with an attorney or use our online contact form to give us more details about your Benicar injury claim.