Cancer Risk Associated with Common Blood Pressure Medicines

Some popular blood pressure medications might be responsible for increasing cancer risks, The Associated Press (AP) just reported, citing emerging research published in today’s Lancet Oncology.

The research, said The AP, reviewed five prior studies that looked at some 60,000 patients and discovered a cancer link in those taking so-called <"">angiotensin-receptor blockers—ARBs. ARBs are prescribed for “high blood pressure, heart problems, and diabetic kidney disease,” explained The AP, which noted that millions of patients are currently prescribed these drugs.

Those people taking ARBs experienced a one-percent increased risk of developing cancer versus those not taking the medications; cancers included a broad spectrum such as prostate and breast cancers and “a noticable spike in lung cancer,” wrote The AP. There was no difference seen in cancer deaths.

The patients studied involved a majority—about 85 percent—who were taking telmisartan (Brand: Micardis by Boehringer Ingelheim Corp.), said the AP.

“… 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,” said Dr. Ilke Sipahi, the study’s lead author and associate director of heart failure and transplantation at University Hospitals Case Medical Center in Cleveland, quoted The AP. According to the team’s findings, one extra cancer case will be seen for every 105 people taking the medications over a four year period, said The AP, which noted that, according to Dr. Sipahi, it remains unknown if the risk remains or disappears once the medication is stopped.

CBS News, citing the Wall Street Journal, said that although the study looked at Micardis, ARBs are also sold under the brands Cozaar and Diovan, among others.

Boehringer Ingelheim, maker of Micardis, as expected, argued against the findings saying that it was in possession of information that contradicted the study’s findings, wrote CBS News and The AP.

Meanwhile, there has been no clear explanation as to what causes the potential link between ARBs and cancer; however, according to CBS News, some prior animal studies have suggested that ARBs could prompt the growth of new blood vessels.

Steven Nissen, the renowned cardiologist located at the Cleveland Clinic, called the study “disturbing and provocative,” in an accompanying commentary in the Lancet Oncology, quoted The AP. Dr. Nissen also urged regulators to mandate drug makers to provide additional information on their products and to immediately provide study findings, added The AP.

Of note, we previously wrote that Micardis was involved in an earlier report in which studies on medications used in the prevention and treatment of stroke questioned the benefit Micardis for use in the prevention of stroke recurrence. In one study, patients taking the blood pressure drug Micardis were no less likely to have another stroke than those patients who were taking a placebo.

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