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Benicar Side Effects Linked to Celiac Disease Symptoms: Study

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The hypertension drug Benicar has been linked to a number of reports involving serious gastrointestinal side effects, producing symptoms typically associated with celiac disease, which may result in a misdiagnosis of the disorder.

According to a study that will be published in the August issue of the medical journal Mayo Clinic Proceedings, researchers indicate that side effects of Benicar (olmesartan) should be considered when users of the medication experience gastrointestinal problems like nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, weight loss and electrolyte abnormalities.

Benicar is prescribed for the treatment of hypertension, high blood pressure, and works by blocking substances that tighten blood vessels, allowing blood to flow more smoothly and the heart to pump more efficiently.

Researchers indicate that between 2008 and 2011, Mayo Clinic physicians treated 22 patients from 17 different states who experienced symptoms similar to celiac disease or who had been diagnosed with the disease after taking the Benicar. Researchers indicate that once patients stopped using the medication, their symptoms improved.

Celiac disease is an autoimmune disorder of the small intestines that occurs among individuals who are genetically predisposed to the condition. There is no known cure for celiac disease, and the only effective treatment for the condition is a life-long gluten free diet. However, researchers indicate that users of Benicar had their symptoms of celiac disease improve once they stopped using the medication.

Mayo Clinic researchers hope that with awareness of the connection between the drug and its symptoms, doctors will think about medications as a possible cause in other cases.

Benicar is categorized as an angiotensin receptor blocker (ARB), which is a class of medications that block the action of angiotensin II, a potent chemical that causes muscles surrounding blood vessels to contract, thereby narrowing blood vessels. This narrowing increases the pressure within the vessels and can cause high blood pressure (hypertension).

ARBs prevent angiotensin II from binding to angiotensin II receptors on blood vessels. As a result, blood vessels enlarge (dilate) and blood pressure is reduced. Reduced blood pressure makes it easier for the heart to pump blood and can improve heart failure.

According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, pharmacies dispensed Benicar to 1.2 million Americans in 2010.

In June 2010, the FDA announced that it was conducting a safety review of Benicar side effects to evaluate whether the medication may increase the risk of death due to heart problems among patients with type 2 diabetes. The investigation was launched after data from two clinical trials identified at least 25 individuals taking Benicar who died from cardiovascular problems.

In July 2010, the FDA launched another safety review to evaluate the risk of cancer with Benicar and other medications in the same class, such as Atacand, Avapro, Cozaar, Diovan, Micardis and Tevetan. However, approximately one year later federal drug safety experts indicated that they were unable to find any link between cancer and the popular class of medications.

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7 comments

  1. James Reply

    After taking Benicar for about 2 years I developed SEVERE sprue like symptoms. I lost 75 pounds, was hospitalized for 22 days and am now on TPN treatment in an attempt to nourish my body which has become so depleted of nutrition. My body was literally eating itself in an attempt to stay alive. I was unable to absorb any nutrition or medication or hydrate through normal digestion and came near death. I am still a very long way from total recovery. My doctor took me off Benicar 2 months ago when he learned from a Mayo Clinic study of the possible side effects of this drug. I’ve been unable to return to work and am now on disability as I try to recover from what we believe was an extremely severe reaction to this drug.

  2. Shelly Reply

    My story is exactly same as James’. However, my condition developed after taking Benicar for over 5 years. I stopped in January and doing well now. But it has changed my life.

  3. Jimmy Reply

    I use to have a very strong digestive system and it changed suddenly that even a salad would upset my stomach. one day about 18 months ago I came across an article about benicar and gastrointestinal side effects. It clicked and made sense that about the same time I started taking benicar soon after the stomach issues occured. I stopped taking the medicine and saw improvement however my stomach has not fully recovered now recently it seems I am lactose intolerant.

  4. James Reply

    I took the drug for almost three years and become ill in April 2013. I lost 60 pounds in less than one month.
    Incredibly , doctors never made the connection and I did not improve until I quit taking the drug on my own. I quit because my blood pressure dropped due to my extreme weight loss and weekend condition.
    I have been off the drug for nine-months and have had no symptoms of diarrhea or weight loss.
    I lost significant mussel mass and have not regained the stamina or strength as I had before the event.

  5. Frank Reply

    6/12/14

    I responded in the first part of this study of Benicar and related illnesses. I reported on while on Benicar and almost a year after stopping the medication. Due to the fact after three years of being on Benicar, due to my BP was still high while on this medication. I reported on the sever abdominal discomfort in both upper and lower GI tract. Along with a stabbing ongoing pain in the pit of my stomach. Along with, diarrhea . constipation, bloating, acid reflux. I also have been experiencing sharp bone or joint pain. The pain moves to from my elbows, wrist, feet and knees. I did not realize the until reading further about Celiac disease. I di have blood test over the past four years that many of my blood test results became either high or low for no real reasons. Low T, higher blood sugar, low iron ( anemic)> am 57 years old and only 4 years back my blood test results were not high or low in many areas. Im wondering if the Benicar has damaged my system in some ways that I did not realize could be a reality. The stress caused by all these illness type feelings, including anxiety and leg and muscle cramps can be pointed at one main cause. Please respond to my information. Thank You ,Frank

  6. Karen Reply

    On Benicar for over 7 years. Became fatigued & depressed little over 4 yrs. ago. In the past couple of years Benicar stopped controling BP on 40mg dose. Spikes to 200/100+ then drop to 110/60. Developed low thyroid. Reoccurring spell with weakness, nausea & perspiration followed by feeling like my life was draining from me. Other spells feeling like the end of my life is soon. Knee joint pain, hip pain. Weak muscles. Extreme fatige & loss of focus. Felt so bad at times that I was ready to die. Through tons of testing with no answers Stopped Benicar almost one month ago – have not had any “spells” since. Focus better w/higher energy level. Still experience joint pain. Using Hctz only now.

  7. Toni Reply

    I started benicar about 7yrs ago started having issues with bathroom and stomache pains was told it was my gallbladder,had that removed still had issues and was told to eat right and lose weight I guess I was lucky I had Thyroid problems so I didn’t lose weight but sick feeling all the time.doctors treated me like it was in my head and I was making it up. I had stopped taking and saw a commercia on how bad it was for i started to cry,l I was so happy to have someone believe me.I wasn’t crazy after all. Not one person ever said anything about it causing those problems. I still have issues just not as bad

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