September 24, 2014 — New research has confirmed the link between Benicar (olmesartan), a popular anti-hypertensive drug, and a serious intestinal disease known as sprue-like enteropathy.
The study, published in Alimentary Pharmacology and Therapeutics, reviewed cases of enteropathy in France.
Researchers concluded that Benicar can probably cause sprue-like enteropathy after studying 10 patients who stopped and re-started the drug. Nine of the patients improved when they stopped Benicar, and all 10 got worse after re-starting Benicar.
Many patients in the study had severe symptoms, including life-threatening diarrhea, vomiting, acute kidney failure, severe weight-loss, low potassium levels in the blood (hypokalemia), abdominal pain, and metabolic acidosis. Some patients had prolonged hospitalizations and four needed treatment in the intensive care unit (ICU).
The study described 36 cases of enteropathy associated with Benicar, including 32 cases involving intestinal villous atrophy. This serious complication occurs when the lining of the intestines is damaged, which can lead to permanent problems with digestion and malnutrition. In 31 cases, the patients had to be hospitalized. None of the patients died.
Interestingly, four patients had normal intestinal villi despite having enteropathy from Benicar. The patients had severe diarrhea, similar to patients with villous atrophy, but they did not have severe intestinal damage.
“This study shows that olmesartan causes severe and potentially life-threatening enteropathy with or without villous atrophy. It appears to be a new disease that differs from other immune-mediated enteropathies, such as coeliac disease, lupus-associated protein-losing enteropathies and autoimmune enteropathies.”
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