Dangers with popular recalled medications

Health Watch

ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — Dr. Jeff Harp explained the dangers behind some popular recalled medications Thursday during News 8 at Sunrise.

The medications include Ranitidine, Nizatidine, and Valsartan. The first two are used to decrease stomach acid, and the last one is used to treat blood pressure. “The issue is this NDMA, Nitrosodimethylamine, which is a chemical that has been found in larger than expected amounts in batches of all of these medicines,” Dr. Harp explained. “Many chemicals have an amount that they’re allowed to be in medicines, but this was higher than what was expected.”

NDMA has the potential to cause cancer according to Dr. Harp, who noted we are exposed to it in other ways too. “Actually, people are allowed to eat about .1 micrograms a day of this stuff, according to our government. And, if you are a person who eats a lot of grilled meat, for example, you’re probably eating about that much a day based on your food intake.”

The cancer risk is, relatively speaking, low. “It’s calculated that out of 100,000 people, there might be one extra case of cancer,” said Dr. Harp. “So the risk is not huge, as far as we can tell. If you think about it, about a third of us are going to get cancer. So that’s like out of 30,000, there might be 30,001. On the other hand, why increase your risk if you don’t need to? And there are some projections that people who actually have been exposed to a lot of it, it could be as much as one case out of 8,000 people. So that’s a little bit of a difference there.”

It’s not clear how NDMA gets into the medications that have been recalled. “We don’t know if it’s part of the manufacturing process or if it’s added through an additive or a process to purify,” Dr. Harp said. “The FDA has asked companies to try to figure out where this is coming from so they can avoid it. And they are also doing their own studies to figure it out.”

Dr. Harp said the good news is there are lots of alternative medications to treat heartburn and high blood pressure on the market. “And the thing to do is really to speak to one’s primary care or health care provider, to talk about what are the alternatives. What can I do instead? There are lots available. Don’t worry that these aren’t available anymore.”

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