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FDA Finds Second Cancer-Causing Impurity in Some Valsartan Heart Drugs


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Blood pressure meter and white pills

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has found a second cancer-causing impurity in three lots of the popular blood pressure medicine valsartan. The lots were all sold through Torrent Pharmaceuticals. The discovery could lead to additional recalls or warnings to patients taking valsartan.

The latest FDA tests found three lots of Torrent Pharmaceutical’s valsartan contained NDEA (N-Nitrosodiethylamine). NDEA is a known cancer-causing agent in animals and a suspected of causing cancer in humans. The Torrent lots were already under recall for NDMA contamination when the FDA tests discovered the second impurity. NDMA is also a probable cause of cancer in humans.

Cancer is not a typical valsartan side effect. But the contamination could raise cancer risks for people taking the medicine.

Valsartan is a widely-used generic drug. The recalls over the summer raised questions about NDMA and cancer risks for people taking the drug. An estimated 3 million Americans take valsartan for high blood pressure or related heart conditions. The European Medicines Agency estimates the risk of cancer from the maximum dose of NDMA-tainted valsartan at one in 5,000. That could still mean hundreds of additional cancer cases in the U.S. The first valsartan lawsuits over NDMA contamination were filed in late August.

Dozens of Companies Announced Valsartan Recalls

Several pharmaceutical companies announced valsartan recalls starting in July 2018 after discovering NDMA contamination in their valsartan products.

Are you suffering from cancer or liver damage after Valsartan use? Get a Free Case Review

As of August 27, more than 75 products, sold under more than 15 brand names were under recall due to NDMA contamination. The FDA maintains a list of recalled valsartan products. It also has a list of valsartan products that are not recalled.

NDMA is a chemical byproduct of rocket fuel and pesticide manufacturing. The contaminated valsartan was traced to the valsartan manufacturing process in at least three factories in China and India. The factories make valsartan for several different pharmaceutical companies. They may have produced tainted valsartan since 2012.

The widespread NDMA contamination triggered an aggressive FDA investigation into Valsartan manufacturing. The agency has been testing for other impurities as well. That’s how the FDA discovered the NDEA contamination.

FDA Examining Latest Valsartan Risks to Patients

The additional risk to patients from the newly discovered NDEA impurity still isn’t clear. The FDA promised a risk analysis in the coming days. The FDA also said it will continue testing all valsartan products for NDEA impurities. The agency said it is working on methods companies should use to detect NDEA contamination. Like NDMA, NDEA contamination comes from chemical reactions and manufacturing processes.

The FDA said people should continue taking recalled valsartan until talking to their doctor about an alternative. But the agency also said anyone taking the recalled drugs should talk to their doctor or pharmacist immediately if they have not already. Not all valsartan products are contaminated. A doctor or pharmacist may be able to change a patient’s prescription to a version that’s not affected.

Terry Turner
Written By Terry Turner Writer

Terry Turner has been writing articles and producing news broadcasts for more than 25 years. He covers FDA policy, proton pump inhibitors, and medical devices such as hernia mesh, IVC filters, and hip and knee implants. An Emmy-winning journalist, he has reported on health and medical policy issues before Congress, the FDA and other federal agencies. Some of his qualifications include:

  • American Medical Writers Association (AMWA) and The Alliance of Professional Health Advocates member
  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Health Literacy certificates
  • Original works published or cited in Washington Examiner, MedPage Today and The New York Times
  • Appeared as an expert panelist on hernia mesh lawsuits on the BBC
Edited By

6 Cited Research Articles writers follow rigorous sourcing guidelines and cite only trustworthy sources of information, including peer-reviewed journals, court records, academic organizations, highly regarded nonprofit organizations, government reports and interviews with qualified experts. Review our editorial policy to learn more about our process for producing accurate, current and balanced content.

  1. U.S. Food and Drug Administration. (2018, September 13). FDA Provides Update on Its Ongoing Investigation Into Valsartan Products; And Reports on the Finding of an Additional Impurity Identified in One Firm’s Already Recalled Products. Retrieved from
  2. U.S. Food and Drug Administration. (2018, August 24). FDA Updates on Valsartan Recalls. Retrieved from
  3. U.S. Food and Drug Administration. (2018, August 27). Valsartan Products Under Recall – Updated August 27, 2018. Retrieved from
  4. Christensen, J. (2018, September 13). FDA Finds Another Impurity in Recalled Heart Drug. CNN. Retrieved from
  5. Brennan, Z. (2018, September 2014). Updated: FDA and Health Canada Spot Second Impurity in Valsartan. Regulatory Focus. Retrieved from
  6. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. (2000, January). N-Nitrosodimethylamine. Retrieved from
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