The drug was developed over 20 years ago by Novartis and since then has been very frequently prescribed to treat patients with high blood pressure. One-hundred-and-four drugs were cleared of the measure Monday while the remaining 115 carcinogen-containing pills remain off the market, following component analyses.
Health Canada says the medications were supplied by Zhejiang Huahai Pharmaceuticals of China and that the valsartan used in the affected products contains an impurity known as N-nitrosodimethylamine (NDMA). Products have been recalled from a number of European countries, while certain national authorities, including in Hong Kong, Taiwan and Canada, have also issued recalls.
Swiss multinational pharmaceutical compaany Novartis informed the ministry that their products containing Valsartan - Diovan, Co-Diovan Entresto and Exforge - are not impacted because these products do not contain the active ingredient from an external supplier.
"Despite the lack of conclusive evidence on whether NDMA is present in these products or whether they are truly risky, these measures were undertaken to pre-emptively protect consumers", a spokesman for the Ministry of Food and Drug Safety said on Saturday. The drug regulator for the European Union said it would conduct an assessment of the severity of the problem for those who are now taking drugs containing Valsartan.
The government said Tuesday it will exempt patients, who have been taking high blood pressure treatment drugs found to contain traces of a possible carcinogen, from paying for doctor's replacement prescriptions.
Other medicines containing valsartan are not affected.
Oh Beom-jo, a professor of family medicine at Dongguk University Medical Center, said, "Patients will be confused about whether their drugs are problematic or not".
According to Health Canada recommendations, patients that take that drug should talk with their pharmacists to know if their medicine was recalled.