Updated | Blood pressure pills on POYC scheme contain contaminated ingredient

Up to 15 products have been listed by the Medicines Authority as potentially containing the impurity • Patients are being advised not to stop medication

Authorities said they were working to bring alternative medication to Malta
Authorities said they were working to bring alternative medication to Malta

Patients obtaining their high blood pressure medication Valsartan through the Pharmacy of Your Choice scheme have been told that the pills being supplied to them are potentially contaminated with a carcinogenic ingredient, MaltaToday has learnt.

This newspaper received several calls from concerned patients after they were told by their pharmacists that the POYC-supplied drugs contained the contaminated ingredient. MaltaToday has independently confirmed this information with a number of pharmacists, who spoke to this newpaper on condition of anonymity.

POYC CEO Celia Falzon told MaltaToday that authorities had submitted an order for new batches of the medication which should arrive within a matter of days.

Valsartan is an active ingredient used in high blood pressure medication. Last week the European Medicines Agency (EMA) issued a warning on the active ingredient manufactured by a Chinese firm, which was found to contain the impurity, N-nitrosodimethylamine, which can cause cancer.

15 products potentially impacted 

According to statement on the Medicines Authority website, 15 products available on the local market could potentially contain the carcinogenic impurity. The list was sent to pharmacists by the Health Ministry on Monday.

The accompanying email read: “If your patient is on any of these products, we advise that you refer the patient to his/her medical practitioner so he will prescribe alternative medicinal products. Patients presenting with prescriptions for the above-mentioned products should be referred back to their GP."

In a statement released on Tuesday morning, the Health Authorities said they were following the issue closely and taking the necessary steps to procure supplies of valsartan from alternative sources in the shortest time possible. It gave no indication as to when a new batch of medication would be available in Malta.

The Superintendent for Public Health (SPH) is advising the public to consult with their doctor if they are using the medication and not to stop using it unless they are in possession of alternative medication. Stopping the medication, the SPH said, could negatively impact one’s health.

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