Benicar Side Effects Linked to Unneeded Gluten-Free Diet Prescriptions
In recent years, a number of people suffering from high blood pressure have been placed on a gluten-free diet due to gastrointestinal problems suspected to be related to Celiac disease, when they were actually suffering from side effects of Benicar, a popular hypertension medication used to lower blood pressure.
Gluten is a substance in wheat that gives bread and pasta their “springy” texture and helps make them soft. However, for about one out of every 100 people, the body believes gluten is attacking them, and they suffer a variety of side effects, such as chronic diarrhea, weight loss and other health problems.
Continued exposure to gluten may eventually cause permanent damage to the gastrointestinal tract, known as villous atrophy, leading doctors to recommend adherence to a gluten-free diet, forsaking some of their favorite foods and often paying more, nearly 250% more on average, for gluten-free food options.
Recent studies have uncovered a link between chronic diarrhea and Benicar, which has gone unrecognized for years, often starting months or even years after first use of the drug. As a result of a lack of information provided to the medical community about the risk, doctors often misdiagnosed patients suffering chronic diarrhea or other symptoms of celiac disease, failing to recognize that Benicar may be the cause of the problems.
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. This was the first public warning about the gastrointestinal risks associated with Benicar, and is still not widely known within much of the medical community.
The federal drug regulatory agency indicated that there was clear evidence of a link between Benicar and symptoms similar to celiac disease, which may surface months or even years after an individual starts using the medication. The warnings indicated that users of Benicar often saw their symptoms resolve when the medication was no longer used, only to re-appear if Benicar is taken again, known as “challenge re-challenge”, and providing strong evidence of a causal link.
Although the diarrhea symptoms on Benicar typically resolve when the medication is stopped, many patients who suffered issues over a long period of time may be left with villous atrophy, suffering the same permanent gastrointestinal damage that is associated with celiac disease patients who fail to adhere to a gluten free diet. However, users of Benicar may have removed gluten from their diet and still continued to experience chronic diarrhea and other complications for years.
Villous atrophy from Benicar involves a deterioration or decay of the villa in the intestinal tract, preventing the absorption of nutrients and reduce digestive capabilities. This typically results in chronic dehydration, malnutrition, a weakened ability to fight off other illness and electrolyte problems, which continue even after Benicar is no longer used.
For those who have been misdiagnosed as having Celiac disease while taking Benicar, switching to a gluten-free diet not only failed to resolve their gastrointestinal problems, but was also a large and unnecessary expense.
According to a 2008 study published in the Canadian Journal of Dietic Practice and Research, all gluten-free products are more expensive than the traditional alternative. Researchers looked at 56 different gluten-free products, finding that, on average, gluten-free products are 242% more expensive than the regular version of that product.
An entire grocery list of gluten-free products can add up quickly. While this is a necessary expense for those suffering from Celiac disease, those experiencing the problems as a result of Benicar may have been able to avoid the costs by simply switching to another blood pressure medication that is not based on olmesartan.
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 Benicar lawsuits filed over the past year by individuals who have experienced severe and debilitating diarrhea after using the blood pressure drug. All of the complaints involve similar allegations that the drug makers knew or should have known about the gastrointestinal risks, 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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