Health Canada says that if you find out the drug you are taking contains the ingredient to continue taking it for now and to contact your health care practitioner as soon as possible to discuss your treatment options. For example, Swiss company Novartis informed the ministry that their products containing valsartan are not impacted because these products do not contain the ingredient from external suppliers. N-nitrosodimethylamine (NDMA) is a chemical substance classified as potentially carcinogenic. Provincial departments of health are responsible for notifying medical facilities and pharmacies about the withdrawal and announcing it on their websites.
Mina Tadrous, (pharmacy faculty, University of Toronto), explained that valsartan is a common drug used by people with high blood pressure. Products have been recalled from a number of European countries, while certain national authorities, including in Hong Kong, Taiwan and Canada, have also issued recalls.
"Patients should not stop taking their medicine if it contains valsartan unless they've been specifically instructed to do so by their prescriber or pharmacist".
Valsartan is an angiotensin-II-receptor antagonist used to treat hypertension (high blood pressure), recent heart attack and heart failure.
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Over 484,682 kilograms of Valsartan have been imported to Korea over the last three years, according to the ministry, but only 2.8 percent, or 13,770 kilograms, contain ingredients from China. It initiated on-site investigations of 82 companies to check whether the drugs contain NDMA.
In addition, the Ministry of Health and Welfare is looking for ways to inform patients of their pharmaceutical history through the Drug Utilization Review software and said it has already granted full health insurance coverage for patients who were taking the contaminated drugs and need alternatives.
As it is now off-patent, it is used as ingredient in many other generic medicines.