Over 11 million prescriptions are issued for the drug Benicar (olmesartan medoxomil) each year. Used to treat high blood pressure, Benicar has helped countless patients maintain normal and healthy blood pressure readings. Unfortunately, the drug has also caused serious gastrointestinal problems in many patients.
How Benicar Works
Benicar contains olmesartan, which is part of a group of drugs called angiotensin II receptor blockers (ARB). The medications Azor and Tribenzor are also included in this group. Angiotensin II is a natural protein found inside the body that when released, can cause major problems within the cardiovascular system. The protein raises blood pressure and narrows blood vessels, making the heart work harder to pump blood throughout the body. Sodium and fluid levels in the body also increase. ARB drugs block the protein and stop it from restricting the blood vessels, which allows the blood to flow more freely, thereby lowering blood pressure.
The Upsetting Truth About Benicar
Patients who take Benicar or other olmesartan-based drugs are at risk for developing a wide range of symptoms, including:
- Chest and abdominal pain
- Liver impairment
- Hair loss
- Angioedema – Rapid swelling of the skin
- Irregular heartbeat
- Kidney problems
Those who do suffer gastrointestinal problems after taking Benicar are often diagnosed with a disorder called sprue-like enteropathy. This condition prevents the body from absorbing nutrients, which can lead to malnutrition, extreme weight loss, and even hospitalization. Unfortunately, doctors often misdiagnose these patients with Celiac disease. Celiac disease is when a person has an allergy to the wheat protein found in grains. Instead of getting the treatment they actually need, patients often suffer needlessly with no improvement at all. Typically, doctors correctly diagnose sprue-like enteropathy only after the patient has endured devastating symptoms that may have even lead to hospitalization.
The FDA Steps In
Benicar, created by Japanese drug maker Daiichi Sankyo, Inc., was first approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 2002. It can be used as a stand-alone drug treatment, or in conjunction with other medications and therapy. Although many doctors and patients were pleased with its effectiveness, the gastrointestinal side effects were too problematic for the FDA to ignore.
Between 2008 and 2011, the Mayo Clinic studied 22 patients with gastrointestinal issues (GI) that were similar to those who have Celiac disease, including chronic diarrhea, dramatic weight-loss, and malnutrition. These patients tested negative for Celiac disease, but were all taking Benicar. The Mayo Clinic contacted the FDA in 2012 after its researchers determined a connection between GI symptoms and olmesartan medoxomil. After this information surfaced, the FDA issued a warning on Benicar’s prescribing information in July 2013 about the possible serious GI issues. Benicar’s label also includes a Black Box Warning—the FDA’s strongest warning—for fetal toxicity, as taking the drug while pregnant can seriously harm unborn babies. Because of this, pregnant women should not take Benicar and women who are already taking the drug should stop immediately once they find out they are pregnant.
Victims of Benicar Can Take Action
Patients who have suffered after taking Benicar have begun filing lawsuits against Daiichi Sankyo for physical and financial losses. One of the victims, George Williams, spent over 100 days in the hospital after taking Benicar. He alleges that this is because of the drug-induced illnesses that Benicar caused. His digestive system is so damaged that he now requires a feeding tube. Williams contends that the drug maker concealed the dangers of the drug and failed to warn the public about the dangers of taking Benicar.
If you have suffered any dangerous side effects due to taking Benicar, you may be entitled to receive financial compensation and the attorneys at Wayne Wright LLP may be able to help. Speak to one of our legal professionals by calling 800-237-3334 or filling out our online form to find out what we can do for you.