Valsartan, commonly sold under the trade name Diovan, is a pharmaceutical product marketed and sold for the treatment of high blood pressure, diabetic kidney disease, and heart failure. It was approved for use and sale by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 1996.
Valsartan is an oral medication that's part of a class of pharmaceutical products known as angiotensin receptor blockers. Angiotensin is a naturally occurring chemical, produced in the blood by certain enzymes (ACEs or angiotensin converting enzymes). Angiotensin is considered a major cause of hypertension. It has been scientifically proven to cause blood vessels to constrict, leading to an increase in blood pressure.
Valsartan works by blocking the path of the angiotensin, so that it cannot reach the angiotensin receptors. That leads to a dilation of the blood vessels and lower blood pressure. While valsartan is most often prescribed to treat high blood pressure, it is also used to treat individuals who have suffered a heart attack. Studies show that it can reduce the risk of death in such patients and can improve the health of individuals with congestive heart failure.
Valsartan has been linked to a wide array of health complications, including:
- Fatigue, dizziness or headaches
- Nausea and/or diarrhea
- Abdominal pain
- Persistent cough
- Hyperkalemia—elevated levels of potassium in your blood, which can negatively affect nerve and muscles cells in your heart
- Adverse or reduced renal function
- Allergic reactions
Valsartan also has been tied to the development of rhabdomyolysis, a debilitating condition involving breakdown of muscle tissue. Some users also have been diagnosed with angioderma, a swelling of soft tissues in the body.
Valsartan is still approved for use and sale in the United States, but the FDA has indicated that some batches of the drug, manufactured in China and India, have been contaminated with a known carcinogen. As a result, more than 50 companies globally have recalled products containing valsartan, including Diovan.