Thousands told to switch blood pressure medication over cancer risk

A common drug, Accuretic, used to manage blood pressure, is being recalled after it was found to contain a carcinogen.

Pharmac said nearly 36,000 New Zealanders using the drug will need to change treatment, although it said the health risk was very low.

Pfizer supplies the drug, Accuretic, which has also been recalled in other countries, including Australia, Canada and the United States.

Pharmac chief operating officer Lisa Williams said she had worked with Pfizer over the past few months to see if a replacement would be available.

“Unfortunately, because this is a global problem, no alternative brand is available in sufficient volumes for New Zealand that can be verified to be free of contamination,” she said.

“This means there is currently no acceptable direct chemical substitute for New Zealanders taking this drug.”

Williams said there were two funded alternatives with sufficient supply, losartan with hydrochlorothiazide and angiotensin converting enzyme inhibitors or angiotensin receptor blockers.

“We want to ensure, above all, that patients can continue to access funded treatments,” she said.

“Medsafe has informed us that there is a very low risk for people taking Accuretic and that they should continue treatment because the risk associated with suddenly stopping blood pressure medication exceeds that presented by the contaminant.”

People taking Accuretic have been advised to consult their doctor about alternative treatment with their next prescription. Pharmac will cover the cost of the GP’s clinic visit and prescription fees.

“We know that our healthcare industry is under tremendous pressure right now, and moving so many people onto alternative treatments will add to that pressure,” Williams said.

“We urge clinicians to transition their patients to alternative medicine as soon as possible, and we really appreciate the support we know clinicians and pharmacists will provide to their patients.”

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