Benicar is used to help lower blood pressure. However, it has also been linked to extreme weight loss and intestinal damage.
What is Benicar?
Benicar (olmesartan) is a medication for people with hypertension, also known as high blood pressure. High blood pressure affects about 1 in 3 adults, according to the Centers for Disease Control. Only approximately half of those with hypertension are managing their condition, either through medication or lifestyle changes.
Benicar is a liquid or tablet taken orally and comes in varying doses depending on the patient’s needs. It is not a cure for hypertension, but is meant to manage the symptoms.
Doctors wrote approximately 1.9 million prescriptions for Benicar in 2012.
Japanese pharmaceutical company Daiichi Sankyo developed Benicar. Daiichi Sankyo marketed the drug as an alternative to other drugs that relieve high blood pressure. Other drugs developed by Sankyo that contain olmesartan, the active ingredient in Benicar, include Azor and Tribenzor.
Benicar has come under fire for causing dangerous side effects that patients were unaware of. Those side effects include chronic diarrhea and intestinal damage. Some people have had dangerous weight loss and long-term gastrointestinal issues from taking Benicar.
How does Benicar work?
Benicar works by preventing blood vessels from narrowing, which is the cause of high blood pressure. Constricted blood vessels cause high blood pressure in the same way squeezing a water hose increases the pressure of water coming out of the nozzle.
Benicar is in a class of medications known as angiotensin II receptor antagonists. Angiotensin is an enzyme that signals the constriction of blood vessels. Benicar blocks these signals to keep the blood vessels open and keep blood pressure healthy.
SIDE EFFECTS of BENICAR
The most dangerous side effect of Benicar is damage to the gastrointestinal system. As with any drug, people may experience different side effects from taking Benicar.
When Benicar is first prescribed, side effects can develop as the body adjusts to the drug. Patients prescribed Benicar should regularly visit their doctor to prevent complications. Doctors may adjust their patients’ doses accordingly.
People taking Benicar may experience chronic diarrhea that can lead to dangerous weight loss and dehydration. It can take months or years for these side effects to emerge, and they can lead to hospitalization. People taking Azor or Tribenzor may also experience these side effects.
Some people taking Benicar have also developed villous atrophy, or the erosion of the villi in the small intestine. Villi are tiny protrusions inside the intestines that help absorb nutrients from food. Villous atrophy caused by Benicar can lead to serious malnourishment.
Common Side Effects
- Joint pain
- Muscle pain
- Stomach pain
Serious Side Effects
- Blurred vision
- Chest pain
- Blood in urine
Who is at Risk?
Benicar can cause complications in people with certain conditions, including kidney and liver disease. Benicar may also lead to complications in people with diabetes, especially those taking drugs containing aliskiren (an ingredient in some diabetes drugs).
Benicar is also not recommended for pregnant women. The drug can hurt or even kill unborn babies, especially during the second and third trimesters.
Evidence of Benicar Complications
In 2013, the Mayo Clinic published the results of a study showing the dangers of Benicar. The study started as an investigation into the mysterious symptoms of 22 different patients.
The patients in the study suffered weight loss ranging from 15 to over 100 pounds. Over half experienced abdominal pain and about 68 percent had nausea and vomiting. These intestinal issues are known as sprue-like enteropathy. Researchers initially suspected celiac disease was to blame because the symptoms are so similar, but tests on all patients came back negative.
Eventually, the researchers realized the patients all had something in common — they were all taking Benicar. The weight loss they experienced was caused by chronic diarrhea and malnourishment.
Most patients in the Mayo Clinic study had been taking Benicar for three years before they had any issues. Most experienced an average of 19 months of chronic diarrhea.
Drug Reactions with Benicar
Doctors may prescribe Benicar to use with other medications to help treat high blood pressure. Yet, there are hundreds of medications that can react negatively with Benicar. Both prescription and over-the-counter medications can cause unsafe blood pressure when mixed with Benicar. Even a simple cold medicine can cause patients taking Benicar to have a dangerous reaction.
Patients should inform their doctor of any medication or supplement they are taking before starting to take Benicar.
The Mayo Clinic provides an extensive list of drugs that can cause reactions with Benicar
Some of the drugs include:
Last Edited: October 14, 2016
- Micromedex. (2015). Mayo Clinic. July 2016. http://www.mayoclinic.org/drugs-supplements/olmesartan-oral-route/description/drg-20065169
- Benicar. (2016). Daiichi Sankyo. July 2016. http://www.benicarhcp.com
- National Institutes of Health. (2015). Description of High Blood Pressure. July 2016. http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/health-topics/topics/hbp
- American Heart Association. (2014). About High Blood Pressure. July 2016. http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/Conditions/HighBloodPressure/AboutHighBloodPressure/About-High-Blood-Pressure_UCM_002050_Article.jsp
- CDC. (2016). Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. July 2016. http://www.cdc.gov/bloodpressure/
- U.S. Food and Drug Administration. (2016). FDA approves label changes to include intestinal problems (sprue-like enteropathy) linked to blood pressure medicine olmesartan medoxomil. July 2016. http://www.fda.gov/Drugs/DrugSafety/ucm359477.htm
- Rubio-Tapia, Herman, Ludvigsson, Kelly, Mangan. (2012). Severe Spruelike Enteropathy Associated With Olmesartan. July 2016. http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0025619612005587
- Patel, Toscano. (2013). FDA. July 2016. http://www.fda.gov/downloads/Drugs/GuidanceComplianceRegulatoryInformation/EnforcementActivitiesbyFDA/WarningLettersandNoticeofViolationLetterstoPharmaceuticalCompanies/UCM374135.pdf