Benicar, the name brand under which the drug olmesartan is sold, is used to treat hypertension and reduce a person’s risk for heart attack, stroke, and kidney problems. It is a member of the class of drugs known as angiotensin receptor blockers that work by relaxing blood vessels and allowing blood to flow through the body with ease. The drug is also used to treat heart failure, though it is not officially approved by the FDA for this use. Benicar HCT, a drug similar to the original, is used to lower cholesterol and not indicated for initial therapy of hypertension.
According to Daiichi Sankyo, Benicar’s manufacturer, the drug is safe for use by older children, as well as adults. It is a commonly prescribed drug that has helped a number of people get their blood pressure under control, but like all medications, it comes with risks.
Benicar Side Effects
Benicar is known to induce a variety of side effects for some users, including swelling in the hands and feet, rapid heartbeat, weight fluctuations, diarrhea, and problems urinating. The medication can also trigger a condition with symptoms that mimic those of Celiac disease called sprue-like enteropathy. This is a debilitating intestinal condition that causes intense pain, dehydration, and chronic diarrhea. Many Benicar users have been admitted to the hospital because of the development of the condition and some – especially senior users – did not survive.
Sprue-like enteropathy is similar to celiac disease or celiac sprue, but it is not triggered by a gluten intolerance. Celiac sprue causes damage to the villi that are responsible for aiding in the digestion and absorption of nutrients in the body. When villi are damaged, nutrients are eliminated from the body through stool instead of being absorbed and put to use in the body.
Symptoms of celiac sprue (and sprue-like enteropathy believed to be linked to Benicar use) include:
- Abdominal pain
- Bloating, gas, indigestion
- Diarrhea, ongoing or occasional
- Nausea and vomiting
- Stools that float, are foul smelling, bloody, or “fatty”
- Joint pain
- Unexplained weight loss
- Irritability and changes in behavior
If left untreated, the gastrointestinal symptoms of sprue can lead to malnutrition, osteoporosis, skin rashes, seizures, infertility, thyroid health issues, nerve damage, and intestinal cancer. Studies have shown the risk of cancer is up to 40 times higher for people with celiac disease.
FDA Increases Warnings Related to Benicar
One Mayo Clinic study found that more than 60 percent of Benicar users experienced at least some side effects when using the medication. In response to that study, the FDA required Daiichi Sankyo to include a warning label on Benicar so patients would be aware of the more severe side effects, including sprue-like enteropathy, associated with the drug. In one instance, a man had to be hospitalized for months after using Benicar.
Despite the concerns over the safety of Benicar, in October 2016, the drug manufacturer Mylan announced it would begin selling generic versions of Benicar. The two companies had previously been involved in a lawsuit concerning the patent for the drug. It is not yet known if the generic version of Benicar will produce the same side effects as the name brand product.
Legal Action Related to Benicar
A number of Benicar users have taken legal action against Daiichi Sankyo after suffering potentially life-threatening side effects from the drug. There are currently no class action lawsuits in progress, but several users have contacted attorneys regarding their health.
Recently, a US Magistrate Judge from the US Federal Court in Camden, New Jersey ruled plaintiffs will not be granted access to two employees from Daiichi Sankyo who were believed to have had intensive involvement in medical studies concerning Benicar, and as a result of their involvement have information regarding research and testing that could affect legal claims. The plaintiffs allege Benicar is a defective product with a defective design and that the researchers in question are directly complicit in wrongdoing. According to the Magistrate Judge, “I don’t think the court has the authority to [compel deposition] if they’re not officers, directors or managing agents.”
The risks associated with Benicar are not only unpleasant and inconvenient they are downright deadly. We want everyone using Benicar or considering the use of Benicar to be aware of these side effects and know they might have the option to take legal action if they developed serious health problems as a result of using Benicar or its generic counterpart.