Blood Pressure Medications Linked to Cancer
Hypertension, also known as high blood pressure, is a growing medical issue that affects one in three adults. With the help of antihypertensive medications, such as Angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors, Angiotensin-receptor blockers, Beta blockers or Calcium channel blockers, many individuals are able to lead healthy lives by keeping their blood pressure at a safe level. According to IMS Health, blood pressure medications were prescribed over 80 million times in America alone, and generated over $25 billion in sales in 2009.
Due to a study conducted by The Case Western University School of Medicine and English scientists and published in the Lancet Oncology Journal, Angiotensin-receptor blockers are becoming a seemingly unsafe solution for blood pressure maintenance. These medications are offsetting the effects of hypertension, but inducing cancer. This specific type of drug is taken by millions of people most commonly for high blood pressure, but also for kidney and heart problems. The brand names of the drugs involved in the study include Merck & Co's Cozaar, sold generically as losartan, Atacand, Micardis, and Diovan or valsartan made by Swiss drug firm Novartis.
An analysis was performed by collecting all publicly available data from randomized trials of Angiotensis-receptor blockers published before November 2009. In total, there were about five studies and 60,000 patients. Nearly 85% of these patients were taking Micardis (telmisartan), which is manufactured by Boehringer Ingelheim Corporation, who states that Micardis is one of the best-selling drugs in the world, and they have "internal safety data" which proves that Micardis is safe. Regardless, patients were 1.2 percent more likely to be diagnosed with a new cancer over four years, when compared to those who did not take Angiotensin-receptor blockers. Of the specific cancers that were examined in the study, lung cancer was significantly higher in the patients assigned Angiotensis-receptor blockers.
According to the study, one extra cancer case will occur for every 105 people taking the medications for about four years. The study's lead author, Dr. Ilke Sipahi states "the risk for the individual patient is modest." "However, when you look at it from the population level, millions and millions of people are on these drugs and it can cause a lot of excess cancer worldwide."
The discovery of Angiotensin-receptor blockers being linked to cancer is a fairly recent one that is just beginning to be researched in greater depths by scientists. As of now, there is no clear determinant as to why cancer rates increase with these drugs, but some animal studies suggest that the medications help produce new blood vessels, which would speed tumor growth.