Consumers throughout the United States are shelling out significantly more money for their heart and blood pressure drugs, thanks to a series of generic valsartan recalls that began over the summer.
According to Reuters, prices for 160 milligram and 80 milligram valsartan tablets more than doubled in September, compared to August rates.
The average cost of 40 milligram valsartan tablets also rose 47%.
Several generic drug makers – including Alembic Pharmaceuticals, Jubilant Pharma, and Mylan NV – are not affected by the ongoing valsartan recalls. However, it’s not clear which companies have opted to take advantage of the resulting shortage by raising prices.
Unfortunately, the valsartan price hikes could impact some consumers well beyond the current shortage.
“If the price of valsartan jumps to $2 and then three weeks later it comes back down to 20 cents, there will be consumers somewhere in this country on high deductible plans still paying $2 a pill three years from now,” Eric Pachman, co-founder of healthcare data firm 46brooklyn, told Reuters.
Valsartan – the generic version of Diovan – is indicated to treat high blood pressure and heart failure.
Until recently, about half of the active pharmaceutical ingredient, or API, used to manufacture generic valsartan in the United States was supplied by China-based Zhejiang Huahai Pharmaceuticals.
However, the company disclosed in June that its valsartan API had been contaminated with N-nitrosodimethylamine (NDMA), a chemical considered a probable human carcinogen by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
As such, generic drug makers supplied by Zhejiang Huahai in the United States, Europe, and Canada have recalled thousands of valsartan batches. The U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) and its counterparts have also banned the company’s products from entering their countries, after an inspection of its manufacturing plant in Zinhai, China turned up less-than ideal conditions.
The fallout from the controversy also includes numerous valsartan lawsuit filings that seek compensation on behalf of consumer in the United States who allegedly purchased worthless and potentially dangerous heart and blood pressure drugs.
The FDA has suggested that NDMA-contaminated valsartan may have been on the market as early as 2014, when Zhejiang Huahai altered production methods at the Zinhai factory.
The agency’s scientists estimate that if 8,000 people took the highest valsartan dose (320 mg) from the recalled batches daily for the full four years, there might be one additional case of cancer over the lifetimes of those 8,000 people.
The FDA has advised valsartan patients to contact their pharmacy to determine if their medication has been recalled. Alternatively, consumers can check the regularly-updated lists of medications included in the valsartan recall, as well as those not included in the recall posted on the agency’s website.
Patients with a recalled valsartan product SHOULD NOT stop taking the drug before they’ve arranged for a replacement with their doctor, as doing so could lead to serious and potentially life-threatening health consequences.
Consumers with questions about the valsartan recalls can also contact pharmacists and nurses staffing the FDA’s dedicated hotline at (855-543-3784).