With an estimated 103 million Americans suffering high blood pressure, the recent recalls of multiple medications that control the issue have concerned many.
For the nearly half of all adults in this country with high blood pressure, what should you do if your prescription appears on the recall list?
Dr. James Park, an interventional cardiologist at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas, says patients should not stop taking their medication without talking to their doctor.
Suddenly stopping medication that helps your heart function can cause major problems, Park says.
"You can get rebound hypertension," the doctor said. "Or you can go into heart failure if you stop right away."
Park, who himself has borderline hypertension, is also a patient. He takes a medication that was recently recalled. He found out thanks to a warning letter from CVS.
Park's doctor advised him to try a different medication in the same class — a safer alternative, so to speak.
There are eight classes or types of medications to control high blood pressure. Each acts in a different way. Some block the blood pressure from getting too high. Others slow the contracting of your heart.
One class in particular, ARBs (Angiotensin II receptor blockers), has been in the news a lot lately.
These medications aren't just for people with high blood pressure. They're also prescribed for people who have congestive heart failure. Drug makers said they found impurities in the pills that are carcinogenic.
While Park said you aren't going to get cancer from taking your high blood pressure medication, he added, "I think we all personally feel we don't want to take impurities in our medications if we can help it. I myself don’t want that either."
The problem in this case isn't with the medication itself, rather with how the drugs are made.
"Sometimes [impurities are due to] the processing of the pills itself," Park said. "I think the other issue is that a lot of these pills are made outside the United States, so it’s hard to regulate that."
WFAA reached out to the FDA for additional insight, but the organization declined an interview, instead pointing us to its website which shows a list of recalled medications and the companies that make them.
The list is long.
The other issue is that because of all the recalls and warnings, hospitals are seeing a shortage of certain medications considered safe alternatives.
"We've noticed a lot of shortages at our hospital on certain critical medications," Park said. "We get warnings from our system sometimes letting us know, hey there might be a shortage of this, so be sure to use them wisely.”
With more drug and device manufacturing happening at a smaller number of centers, companies and countries, Park said it's important to trace how and where your medicine is made — and by whom.
You can do that through your primary care doctor, your specialist and online.
Physicians don't usually love the idea of patients "googling" around when it comes to health issues, but this is the exception.
"This might be the one thing where I do want patients to research and keep themselves updated so they’re not falsely thinking about one thing or another," Park said.