Consumer organisation Test-Achats has lodged an official complaint with the federal agency for drug safety over cardiac medication which was found to contain a substance that can cause cancer. The problem concerns medication containing valsartan, used in cardiology for patients with, for example, high blood pressure or a recent heart attack. When it was discovered that some batches of the drug contained a molecule known as NDMA (N-nitrosodimethylamine), which can cause cancer, the drugs were recalled across Europe. In Belgium the withdrawal took place on 6 July, but the news has only now been announced. The drugs are produced in China by the company Zhejiang Huahai Pharmaceuticals.
Test-Achats points to a report which states that the contaminated drugs may have been on the market in Belgium for two years, and demands an explanation of the delay in informing the public. Despite the recall of valsartan from pharmacies, some patients may still have supplies at home they are continuing to use.
Toxicologist Jan Tytgat of the university of Leuven pointed out that the NDMA is present only in tiny quantities, and patients are running no serious risk. The European Medicines Agency, however, reported that patients taking daily high doses of 320mg or more over a long period of time could indeed be at risk.
However, the federal agency said, patients on valsartan medication run more of a risk by stopping taking the medication abruptly. Patients should get medical advice before taking any action.