Valsartran (Diovan) cancer recall: what should you do if you are taking it?

A reader recently asked,

"I just read your article on carcinogens and I think I already know the answer to this question, but it’s scary territory so I am asking. My husband has been taking Valsartran for over a year and his prescription was among those just recalled by the FDA for probable carcinogens. I’ve had a few suggest that he should see an oncologist to be tested. Is this good advice? I know being sure never hurts, but being paranoid can."

Valsartran (brand name Diovan) is a heart and blood pressure drug that was recently recalled by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) because it was found to contain NMDA, a carcinogen.  What should you do if you are taking Valsartran? 

DON'T PANIC!  The Valsartran does not cause cancer, it's a very good drug and if you are taking it, you probably need it. The impurity that night be in the pills doesn't cause cancer but it might increase the chances of cancer over time. You will waste your time if you see an oncologist;

Valsartran was recalled by the FDA because some preparations of this drug were found to contain an impurity, NDMA , which is considered a "probable carcinogen" since it increased cancer in laboratory rats.  The NMDA was the result of some new manufacturing methods used by only a few companies that made the pills. NMDA was found in the pills from three companies, and these were the ones that were recalled: Major Pharmaceuticals, Solo Healthcare, and Teva Pharmaceuticals. The rest were tested and found to be safe.

If you are taking Diovan, DON'T STOP TAKING IT! It could be dangerous for your heart or blood pressure if you stop, and it won't hurt you to take it for a few more days to sort this out. Instead, talk to the pharmacy that supplied the drug and find out if it was from a recalled batch; the pharmacy should be able to find a safe batch. If you need to stop the drug because you can't get a safe preparation, get in touch with your doctor--call the office, talk to the nurse if you can't reach the doctor.  The doc can put you on another medication that has the desired medical effects for your system.

Don't see an oncologist. There is nothing this specialist can do there is no general test to find cancer.  This might be a good excuse, however, for you and your spouse to think about getting up to date on the recommended cancer screening tests, such as prostate exam, colonoscopy, pap smear and mammogram.