Use of NDMA-contaminated valsartan products and risk of cancer

To quickly evaluate cancer risk associated with exposure to N-nitrosodimethylamine (NDMA) from tainted supplies of valsartan, a common hypertension drug, Danish researchers turned to national health registry data.

To quickly evaluate cancer risk associated with exposure to N-nitrosodimethylamine (NDMA) from tainted supplies of valsartan, a common hypertension drug, Danish researchers turned to national health registry data. The cohort study included 5,150 noncancer patients aged 40 years and older who were using valsartan or initiated use during a 5-year stretch that ended in June 2017. Investigators tracked each patient from 1 year after cohort entry until they suffered a cancer outcome, died, migrated, or until the study period ended in June 2018—whichever occurred first. Analysis revealed 104 cancer outcomes among patients with no NDMA exposure and 198 among exposed patients. With an overall adjusted hazard ratio of 1.09, the increased short-term risk of cancer in patients who took contaminated valsartan was not considered significant. Elevated risk for single cancer outcomes—colorectal and uterine cancers, in particular—did create cause for concern, however, and speak to the need for additional study. More research is also necessary to evaluate long-term cancer risk, the researchers conclude.