You can take valsartan either before or after a meal.
Any side-effects are usually mild. The most common side-effect is dizziness.
Some painkillers may interfere with valsartan and increase the risk of side-effects, so ask a pharmacist for advice before you buy any medicines.
|Type of medicine||An angiotensin-II receptor antagonist|
|Used for||Hypertension; heart failure; to protect the heart|
|Also called||Diovan®; Co-Diovan® (this brand contains valsartan with hydrochlorothiazide); Exforge® (this brand contains valsartan with amlodipine)|
|Available as||Tablets and capsules|
Valsartan is an angiotensin receptor blocker. It is also called an angiotensin-II receptor antagonist, or an AIIRA. You will have been prescribed valsartan either because your blood pressure is too high (hypertension), or because your heart is not working as well as it should (heart failure), or to protect your heart if you have recently had a heart attack.
Valsartan works by blocking the effect of a chemical called angiotensin II. Angiotensin II causes your blood vessels to narrow, so by blocking its effect valsartan allows your blood vessels to relax and widen. As this happens, the pressure within your blood vessels is reduced and it is easier for your heart to pump blood around your body. Valsartan also helps to protect the heart following a heart attack.
Valsartan may be prescribed on its own to treat high blood pressure, or you may also be given other medicines to take alongside it. This is because a combination of medicines which work in different ways can often lower your blood pressure more than one medicine on its own. Combination brands which contain valsartan alongside other medicines for high blood pressure include Co-Diovan® and Exforge®. Being prescribed a combination brand like these will help to reduce the number of tablets you need to take each day.
Before taking valsartan
Some medicines are not suitable for people with certain conditions, and sometimes a medicine may only be used if extra care is taken. For these reasons, before you start taking valsartan it is important that your doctor knows:
- If you are pregnant, trying for a baby or breast-feeding.
- If you have a problem with your kidneys, particularly if it is a blockage of the artery which supplies blood to your kidneys.
- If you have any problems with your heart valves or heart muscle.
- If you have a problem with the way your liver works, or if you have a condition which blocks the flow of bile from your liver.
- If you are taking any other medicines. This includes any medicines you are taking which are available to buy without a prescription, such as herbal and complementary medicines.
- If you have ever had an allergic reaction to a medicine.
How to take valsartan
- Before you start the treatment, read the manufacturer's printed information leaflet from inside the pack. It will give you more information about valsartan and will provide you with a full list of the side-effects which you may experience from taking it.
- Take valsartan exactly as your doctor tells you to. You may be asked to take valsartan once or twice a day depending on the reason why you are taking it. When you first start treatment, your doctor may gradually increase the strength of your dose to suit your condition. There are several different strengths of tablet/capsule available, so each time you collect a fresh supply, it's a good idea to check the strength on the packet to make sure they are what you are expecting.
- Try to take valsartan at the same time(s) of day each day. Taking your doses at the same times will help you to remember to take valsartan regularly.
- Swallow the tablet/capsule with a drink of water. You can take valsartan either before or after a meal.
- If you forget to take a dose, take it as soon as you remember. If when you remember, it is nearly time for your next dose then take your next dose when it is due but leave out the missed dose. Do not take two doses together to make up for a forgotten dose.
Getting the most from your treatment
- Try to keep your regular appointments with your doctor. This is so your progress can be monitored and your blood pressure measured. Your doctor may want you to have some blood tests from time to time to check on your kidneys, and also how much potassium is in your blood.
- If you buy any medicines, check with a pharmacist that they are suitable to take with valsartan. This is because some anti-inflammatory painkillers (such as aspirin and ibuprofen) may interfere with the way it works, and also may increase the risk of side-effects.
- It is very important that you follow any dietary and lifestyle advice that you may have been given by your doctor, such as eating a healthy diet, not smoking, and taking regular exercise.
- If you drink alcohol, ask your doctor for advice. Your doctor may recommend that you do not drink alcohol while you are on valsartan because it will increase the risk of side-effects, such as feeling dizzy or faint.
- Try to avoid salt substitutes which contain potassium. This is because the substitutes will increase the amount of potassium in your blood and this can cause problems.
- If you are having an operation or dental treatment, tell the person carrying out the treatment that you are taking valsartan. This is because your blood pressure may drop too low if you are given some anaesthetics.
- Treatment with valsartan is often long-term unless you experience an adverse effect. Continue to take it regularly, unless you are advised otherwise by your doctor.
Can valsartan cause problems?
Along with their useful effects, most medicines can cause unwanted side-effects although not everyone experiences them. The table below contains some of the most common ones associated with valsartan. You will find a full list in the manufacturer's information leaflet supplied with your medicine. The unwanted effects often improve as your body adjusts to the new medicine, but speak with your doctor or pharmacist if any of the following continue or become troublesome.
|Valsartan side-effects ||What can I do if I experience this?|
|Feeling tired or dizzy||Do not drive or use tools or machines while affected|
|Tummy (abdominal) pain, cough, headache, stomach upset||If troublesome, speak with your doctor.|
Important: valsartan has been associated with an allergic-type reaction in a few people. Although this occurs only rarely, if you get any swelling of your mouth or face, speak with your doctor or go to your local accident and emergency department straightaway.
If you experience any other symptoms which you think may be due to the tablets, speak with your doctor or pharmacist for further advice.
How to store valsartan
- Keep all medicines out of the reach and sight of children.
- Store in a cool, dry place, away from direct heat and light.
Important information about all medicines
Never take more than the prescribed dose. If you suspect that you or someone else might have taken an overdose of this medicine, go to the accident and emergency department of your local hospital. Take the container with you, even if it is empty.
This medicine is for you. Never give it to other people even if their condition appears to be the same as yours.
Do not keep out-of-date or unwanted medicines. Take them to your local pharmacy which will dispose of them for you.
If you have any questions about this medicine ask your pharmacist.
Further reading & references
- Manufacturer's PIL, Diovan® 40 mg film-coated Tablets; Novartis Pharmaceuticals UK Ltd, The electronic Medicines Compendium. Dated May 2013.
- British National Formulary; 68th Edition (Sep 2014) British Medical Association and Royal Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain, London
Disclaimer: This article is for information only and should not be used for the diagnosis or treatment of medical conditions. EMIS has used all reasonable care in compiling the information but make no warranty as to its accuracy. Consult a doctor or other health care professional for diagnosis and treatment of medical conditions. For details see our conditions.
Dr Adrian Bonsall