Benicar Gastrointestinal Problems May Be Cause of Villous Atrophy: Study

As the number of Benicar lawsuits filed nationwide over claims of chronic diarrhea and permanent gastrointestinal problems continues to grow, a group of French researchers are warning doctors to be aware of the link between Benicar and villous atrophy

At the annual Digestive Disease Week conference in Chicago this month, researchers warned that the popular blood pressure drug can cause users to suffer damage to the microscopic tentacles that line the wall of the small intestines. The long-term damage caused by Benicar side effects, known as villous atrophy, can interfere with an individual’s ability to absorb nutrients, leading to chronic dehydration and malnutrition.

Researchers from the University of Paris and the French National Health Insurance Fund found that patients taking Benicar are several times more likely to develop villous atrophy than those taking other high blood pressure medications.

The study involved an examination of data for more than 4.5 million patients from the French national health insurance plan, who started taking Benicar or another hypertension drug between 2007 and 2012.

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Benicar Lawsuits

Side Effects of Benicar May Cause Diarrhea, Villous Atrophy and Sprue-Like Enteropathy

Researchers found that during the first year of Benicar use, the number of patients hospitalized for intestinal malabsorption was 2.6 cases per 100,000 person-years. That number jumped to 6.7 during the second year, and 8.9 for those who took the drug longer than two years.

By contrast, only 1.5 per 100,000 patients taking other drugs from the same class, known as angiotensin receptor blockers (ARBs), suffered signs of villous atrophy after two years. For patients taking another type of hypertension drug known as ACE inhibitors, only 0.9 suffered intestinal malabsorption problems after the same time period.

In a report published by Family Practice News, health experts indicated that the study provides a “key lesson” for gastroenterologists, indicating that doctors should remember that villous atrophy is not always caused by celiac disease.

Benicar Warnings About Diarrhea, Sprue-Like Enteropathy

Benicar (olmesartan medoxomil) is a widely-used blood pressure drug that was first approved by the FDA in 2002. It is distributed by Daiichi Sankyo and Forest Laboratories in the U.S., and other versions of the medication are sold under the brand names Benicar HCT, Azor and Tribenzor.

In July 2013, the FDA issued a drug safety communication to warn consumers and the medical community about a risk of Benicar causing sprue-like enteropathy, a condition that results in chronic diarrhea, weight loss and permanent gastrointestinal damage.

The federal drug regulators indicated that these problems may surface months or even years after an individuals starts using the medication.

Although the diarrhea symptoms typically resolve when the medication is no longer used, many patients are left with permanent gastrointestinal damage from Benicar, such as villous atrophy. This deterioration or decay of the villa in the intestinal tract, may prevent the absorption of nutrients and reduce digestive capabilities, resulting in chronic dehydration, malnutrition, a weakened ability to fight off other illness and electrolyte problems.

For patients with villous atrophy, many doctors do not suspect Benicar as the cause, commonly believing the problems are caused by celiac disease, which is an autoimmune disorder that can cause similar symptoms in response to gluten in the diet. However, the condition is only known to occur among individuals with a genetic predisposition, and adherence to a gluten free diet often helps reduce the symptoms of pain or discomfort in the digestive tract, chronic constipation, diarrhea and fatigue.

For users of Benicar misdiagnosed with celiac disease, they often report no response to changes in their diet and symptoms continue until they stop taking the medication.

Benicar Lawsuits for Villous Atrophy

Although Benicar has been on the market for more than 10 years, many consumers and doctors are just now learning that chronic diarrhea and other gastrointestinal problems may be caused by the medication.

Daiich Sankyo and Forest face a growing number of product liability lawsuits brought by individuals who have experienced severe and debilitating gastrointestinal injuries after using the blood pressure drug. All of the complaints involve similar allegations that the drug makers knew or should have known about the risk, but failed to provide adequate warnings.

Many of the plaintiffs claim that if they had been warned to seek medical attention if they developed diarrhea or other symptoms of sprue-like enteropathy, they may have avoided long-term gastrointestinal damage associated with villous atrophy from Benicar.

Due to a lack of warnings, many cases of probelms associated with Benicar have been misdiagnosed in recent years as celiac disease or unclassified sprue, which is a medical term are used to describe cases where the precise cause of the sprue-like condition can not be determined.

Since the connection was discovered between Benicar and chronic diarrhea, the Celiac Disease Center has suggested that Benicar may have been responsible for 22% of all cases of previously unclassified sprue.

In a report published earlier this year in the medical journal Case Reports in Gastrointestinal Medicine, researchers from the Conemaugh Memorial Medical Center highlighted how recognition of the link between Benicar and enteropathy may explain a good proportion of cases previously considered unclassified sprue.


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