Karachi - Cardiologists, dialectologists and pharmacists on Saturday clarified that medicines used for treatment of blood pressure and cardiovascular disease including Valsartan were not causing cancer. They urged people to continue taking the drug if they were advised by their physicians and pharmacists.

Earlier, the Provincial Pharmacovigilance Centre Punjab issued an alert asking manufacturers to review their sources of raw materials of valsartan (a formula used in the making of hypertension medicines).

Thje Drug Regulatory Authority of Pakistan (Drap) triggered a recall of all valsartan containing medicines having made using same source of active substance.

The active ingredient is set to have a cancer-causing impurity called Nitrosodimethylamine (NDMA) also known as dimethylnitrosamine (DMN).

In the press conference, at Karachi Press club, leading cardiologist and dialectologists further said that rumours being spread in the country that medicines for the treatment of high blood pressure were causing cancer, which they termed untrue and urged patients to continue taking their medicines including Valsartan as it was quite safe and ‘drug of choice’ for millions of patients in the world including Pakistan.

“Valsartan is a very good medicine for the treatment of high blood pressure and it is not causing cancer. There was a precautionary recall of some of the valsartan prepared through raw material imported from a Chinese company and the issue is now settled. If a doctor prescribes Valsartan for the treatment of hypertension, patient should follow his advice”, PSHP President Abdul Latif Shaikh said.

The press conference had been organized by the Pakistan Society of Health System Pharmacists (PSHP) to eradicate the misconception about recall of Valsartan by the Drug Regulatory Authority of Pakistan (DRAP) and it was addressed by PSHP President Abdul Latif Shaikh, Dr. Ashar Fawad from Baqai Institute of Diabetology and Endocrinology (BIDE), Community Pharmacist from Al-Khidmat Hospital Zaad Hashmi and Arif Ali Arain, Sindh President of Pakistan Pharmacists Federation (PPF).

Dr Fawad Farooq said this issue surfaced when European Medicine Agency (EMA) called for a precautionary recall of Valsartan prepared from raw material imported from a particular Chinese company and following EMA’s action, Pakistani drug regulatory authorities also asked local companies to recall their products which had been prepared from the Chinese company’s raw material.

“Actually the Chinese company’s product had an impurity in very minute quantity, which is known as NDMA. Lab tests showed that this impurity could cause cancer to animals but there is no study available on its effects to humans”, he said and added that as a precautionary measure, Pakistani authorities also recalled all the Valsartan which had been prepared through that particular Chinese company’s raw material.

To a query, he said Valsartan was a very good medicine for the treatment of blood pressure and hundreds of thousands of people were using it daily for controlling their blood pressure. “I would advise people not to take decisions based on rumours and continue taking their medicine if doctors and pharmacists have prescribed these to them”, he advised.

President of the PSHP Abdul Latif Shaikh also endorsed the assertion that Valsartan was a safe drug for the patients and advised people to have trust on their doctors as well as pharmacists as strict monitoring was being carried out on the safety of drugs in Pakistan.