Benicar is a prescription drug that is used to combat high blood pressure. It is also known generally as “Olmesartan,” which is its active ingredient. Benicar is an angiotensin II receptor blocker. Angiotensin II sometimes causes the blood vessels to contract, increasing blood pressure. Benicar blocks the reuptake of this hormone so the blood vessels do not contract in the same way.
It has been approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for this use since 2002. However, some of Benicar’s side effects are serious, causing chronic medical problems. These medical problems are the subject of a wide array of Benicar lawsuits across the country.
Benicar is produced by Forest Laboratories and Daiichi Sankyo. As soon as the FDA approved Benicar for commercial sale, Daiichi Sankyo began promoting the product to reduce blood pressure. In fact, it spent roughly $1 billion to promote the product between 2002 and 2008.
Benicar and similar drugs generate approximately $7 billion in revenue each year. As of 2010, roughly 10.6 million prescriptions of this type of drug were dispensed, affecting 1.9 million patients. However, according to some experts, Benicar may have unique, potentially debilitating side effects that are not associated with other angiotensin receptor blockers.
Benicar Side Effects
Common side effects that are associated with Benicar use include:
- Difficulty breathing or swallowing
One of the most serious side effects, however, is what is known as “Sprue-like Enteropathy.” This condition is very similar to Celiac disease. Celiac disease is usually treated by limiting the patient to a gluten-free diet. However, those with sprue-like enteropathy do not respond to the same type of treatment.
Symptoms of sprue-like enteropathy include:
- Severe or chronic diarrhea
- Weight loss
- Severe nausea and/or vomiting
- Signs of malnutrition
Sprue-like enteropathy is an intestinal disorder. Essentially, this condition does not allow your body to absorb the nutrients from the food that you eat. That means that even though you are eating regularly, you could become malnourished and starve to death.
It is unclear what causes some patients to react negatively in this way while others do not have similarly severe reactions. However, some medical evidence suggest that the blocked angiotensin II could induce a chemical process that produces a protein called a “transformation growth factor” or TGF. This TGF can then cause a mutation that damages the intestinal tract.
Even though this condition is very serious, it may not develop until months or years of using Benicar. Patients often mistake it for other intestinal issues as well, making diagnosing it difficult. Simply discontinuing the use of Benicar and other similar drugs will help this condition.
Benicar Mayo Clinic Study
The 2012 study that first signaled many of Benicar’s problems was completed by the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota. Twenty-two patients that were taking Benicar and had severe stomach problems participated in the three-year study. Fourteen of the 22 were hospitalized due to their severe diarrhea and weight loss.
Dr. Josephy Murray, a leader in the study, had the patients discontinue their usage of Benicar, and their intestinal problems subsided or improved. He therefore concluded that there was a direct link between Benicar use and the severe intestinal problems that these patients were having.
Similar studies followed and they had relatively the same results. One study of 40 participants from the American College of Gastroenterology showed a similar linkage between olmesartan usage and sprue-like enteropathy.
FDA Response to Benicar
The FDA has not issued a Benicar recall. However, in 2013, it did specifically require Benicar manufacturers to list the connection between sprue-like enteropathy and taking Benicar on the label. This required label change also applies to:
- Benicar HCT
- Generic brands of olmesartan medoxomil
Currently, this is the only known action that the FDA has taken regarding this potentially serious side effect. However, the FDA noted that it is continuing to investigate the link between olmesartan and sprue-like enteropathy.
After the FDA announced is new labeling requirement, the Benicar lawsuits began. Some of the first lawsuits were filed in February 2014. One such patient was George. George was hospitalized for over 100 days because of side effects associated with the drug. He also developed cataracts and a compression fracture that he argues is attributable to treatments for his chronic diarrhea that he did not realize was associated with Benicar. Today, George must use a feeding tube on a daily basis.
Other lawsuits include patients with similar stories. These lawsuits assert that Daiichi Sankyo manufactured a defective product that was dangerous. They also argue that Benicar’s manufacturer did not properly warn patients of the risks of developing intestinal problems.
Daiichi Sankyo settled a case with the United States Department of Justice regarding the drug for $39 million. In that case, the lawsuit alleged that the Benicar manufacturer provided illegal kickbacks to doctors who recommended Benicar to their patients. If true, this would be a direct violation of the False Claims Act.
St. Louis Benicar Lawyer
If you are taking Benicar or a similar drug for your high blood pressure and are experiencing intestinal problems, seek medical attention immediately. You could be at risk for severe stomach issues that may ultimately lead to death and other side effects of malnutrition.
Stomach conditions related to Benicar often mask themselves as other unrelated conditions. It is better to ask than suffer the consequences.
If you or a loved one has already experienced the negative side effects of Benicar or other similar drugs, you may be entitled to compensation. This compensation could help with medical expenses, pain and suffering, lost wages or missed work, mental and emotional damage related to this type of stomach condition, and more. Call The Dixon Injury Firm for a free case evaluation. We can help you determine if you are a good candidate for a Benicar lawsuit.
You do not have to face this potentially debilitating condition alone. Our lawyers for Benicar will help you stand up to the multi-national drug companies and obtain reimbursement for your harms and losses. Call (855) 55-BAD-DRUG for a free consultation 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.