Manufactured by Daiichi Sankyo, Inc. and sold under the brand name Benicar, olmesartan is a popular prescription drug approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 2002 for the treatment of hypertension.
Now one of the most-prescribed medications in its class, Benicar can be used by adult and pediatric patients ages 6 and older to reduce dangerously high blood pressure—either on its own or as part of a comprehensive regimen. In October 2016, the FDA also approved generic olmesartan, despite growing concerns over serious gastrointestinal side effects linked to use of the drug. If you were recently prescribed Benicar or any of its generics, or developed a severe gastrointestinal disorder while taking the medication, here's what you should know.
Angiotensin II Receptor Blockers
Benicar, and other medications that have olmesartan as an active ingredient, belong to a class of prescription drugs known as angiotensin II receptor blockers (ARBs). Angiotensin II is a protein in the body that narrows blood vessels, making it harder for the heart to pump blood and, in turn, raising blood pressure. For people with chronically high blood pressure or hypertension, keeping blood pressure within normal range is key to preventing strokes, heart attacks, and other cardiovascular problems. Olmesartan drugs such as Benicar inhibit angiotensin II, allowing blood to flow freely through relaxed blood vessels.
Other Drugs Containing Olmesartan
Traditional Benicar isn't the only drug that contains olmesartan. In addition to Benicar HCT® (olmesartan and hydrochlorothiazide), other popular hypertension medications containing olmesartan include Azor® (olmesartan and amlodipine) and Tribenzor® (olmesartan, amlodipine, and hydrochlorothiazide). Each of these medications is expected to have a generic available in the near future.
Treatments Used in Conjunction With Benicar
Benicar can be used as a standalone treatment for hypertension or as part of a regimen to prevent high blood pressure, heart attack, and stroke that includes other medications, as well as lifestyle changes. Additional medications prescribed with Benicar can include other ARBs—such as Benicar HCT, Azor, and Tribenzor—diuretics, beta blockers, ACE inhibitors, calcium-channel blockers (CCBs), alpha blockers, and vasodilators.
Lifestyle changes recommended while taking Benicar may include regular exercise, eating a low-sodium diet, and quitting smoking, in addition to treatments for controlling blood sugar, reducing cholesterol, and preventing or treating blood clots.
Side Effects Associated With Benicar
While Benicar is shown to reduce blood pressure in hypertensive adult and pediatric patients, it's also been linked to some worrying side effects, including serious kidney, liver, and gastrointestinal problems.
Most notably, Benicar may damage the lining of the intestines, causing villous atrophy or sprue-like enteropathy. These illnesses can cause debilitating symptoms, such as nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, severe chronic diarrhea, malabsorption of nutrients, and dramatic weight loss. In extreme cases, patients taking Benicar may require hospitalization or have to use a feeding tube. Other Benicar side effects include:
- Angioedema (rapid swelling of the skin)
- Irregular heartbeat
- Chest pain
- Skin rashes
- Hair loss
If you've experienced any of the serious side effects associated with using Benicar for the treatment of hypertension, or are concerned about the potential for such side effects, talk to your doctor about an alternative medication.
Do You Need a Personal Injury Attorney?
Despite being linked to a variety of disturbing side effects and complications, Benicar hasn't been recalled by its manufacturer, Daiichi Sankyo, Inc., or by the FDA. However, a growing number of patients have filed lawsuits against the manufacturer, alleging the company failed to properly test the drug and continued to market a dangerous medication without informing doctors and patients of potential risks.
If you experienced any of the serious side effects, or developed any of the severe illnesses associated with Benicar, you may be eligible to file a lawsuit to seek compensation for health expenses and other damages. Contact McGartland Law today to schedule a free initial consultation to discuss your case. Our firm has 30 years of experience handling injury cases nationwide and, because we work on a contingency fee basis, you don't pay any legal fees unless we win your case.