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Emergency Visits Increased After Valsartan Recall, Study Finds



TORONTO – A large recall of contaminated drugs seemed to create confusion among many hypertensive patients who were forced to give up on the drug last year, with many turning to hospital emergency departments for medical help.

The nonprofit Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences group says emergency department visits have increased 55% among people affected by the Health Canada recall of some valsartan products.

Lead author Cynthia Jackevicius says that while the number of emergency responders was relatively small in only 0.17% of affected patients, the increase was still significant.


The drugs were withdrawn from the market in July 2018 after finding that they contained an impurity known as NDMA, a potential carcinogen that can cause cancer with long-term exposure.

The researchers examined the impact on 55,461 affected patients and found that 10.7% did not replace their medications within the next three months. Of those studied, 95% had hypertension, while five% had heart failure. The average age was 76 years.

It was unclear whether emergency patients were among the 10% who did not replace medications, or went to hospital for a new prescription or lost control of hypertension.

Jackevicius says the data suggests the need for better coordination between Health Canada, prescribers and pharmacists when a recall is announced.

"While government agencies have issued guidelines to continue taking medications until they contact prescribers, there is a high potential for patient misunderstanding, mainly due to media reports that may have raised alarm about possible consequences. negative, "said the report, released Monday. . "Patients may be willing to risk the short-term potential of uncontrolled hypertension to avoid ingestion of a potential carcinogen."

Prior to the recall, the group's emergency room visits averaged 0.11% per month. The month after the recall, the rate jumped to 0.17%.

The researchers also found a delayed six percent increase in emergency department visits for stroke patients taking valsartan, as well as an eight percent jump in hospitalizations, but most of that jump did not appear until November.


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