March 12, 2014 — The journal Digestive and Liver Disease has published a study linking Benicar (olmesartan) and five cases of sprue-like enteropathy (chronic diarrhea and weight-loss), bringing the total number of known cases to 27.
According to researchers:
“All cases were observed in a small gastroenterology unit, which suggests that this adverse effect may not be rare.”
Before this study was published, Dr. Joseph Murray, a gastroenterology and professor or medicine at the University of Rochester in Minnesota, described the risk of sprue-like enteropathy from Benicar as “very rare.” Dr. Murray was the professor who published the first study linking Benicar and 22 cases of chronic diarrhea.
One year before this study was published, Case Reports in Gastrointestinal Medicine published a case report of a 64 year-old man who had chronic diarrhea and 25-pounds of weight-loss in three months. Celiac disease was ruled out after he did not improve on a gluten-free diet. After discontinuing Benicar, his diarrhea went away and he gained 20-pounds in two months. Researchers also found that sprue-like enteropathy was “rare.”
The problem is that many patients with sprue-like enteropathy from Benicar may be mis-diagnosed as having Celiac disease (gluten-sensitive enteropathy) or colitis (intestinal inflammation). In fact, lawsuits have been filed by people who suffered for years because doctors were unaware of the association.
Researchers searched a French database of pharmaceutical drug side effects and linked Benicar to cases of severe diarrhea and colitis, but no cases of villous atrophy (a complication that occurs when the lining of the intestines is damaged). They recommended that doctors should discontinue Benicar in patients with severe diarrhea, even if the patient has been on Benicar for several months or years.
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