Losartan-containing drugs are being voluntarily recalled

Health News


OTTAWA – RECALL –Losartan Health Canada is advising Canadians that multiple lots of Losartan-containing drugs are being voluntarily recalled by Teva Canada, Apotex Inc., Pharmascience Inc., and Pro Doc Limitée because of the potential for a nitrosamine impurity, N-Nitroso-N-methyl-4-aminobutyric acid (NMBA).

NMBA is potentially a human carcinogen, which means that long-term exposure could increase the potential risk of cancer.

Teva Canada is voluntarily recalling two lots of combination Losartan/hydrochlorothiazide (HCTZ) tablets after testing of one lot identified levels of NMBA above what is considered reasonably safe if the drug were taken over a lifetime. Apotex Inc., Pharmascience Inc., and Pro Doc Limitée are voluntarily recalling multiple lots of Losartan-containing products as a precaution.

The Losartan active pharmaceutical ingredient (API) in all of the recalled products is manufactured by Hetero Labs Ltd. Unit 1, in India. These recalls represent all lots of drugs distributed in Canada that contain Losartan API manufactured at Hetero Labs Ltd. Unit 1.

Losartan is an angiotensin receptor blocker (ARB) drug, also known as a “sartan.” Sartans are a class of drugs used to treat patients with high blood pressure to help prevent heart attacks and stroke. They are also used in patients who have had heart failure or a recent heart attack. There have been multiple recalls of products containing another sartan, valsartan, in Canada and internationally since July 2018 because of nitrosamine impurities (see links below for more information).

As with previous recalls involving nitrosamine impurities, Health Canada is advising that there is no immediate risk to patients taking these medications, since the potential risk of cancer is with long-term exposure to the impurities. Patients should not stop taking their medication unless advised to do so by their healthcare provider.

There are alternative products currently available on the Canadian market. Health Canada continues to monitor the supply situation. Health Canada encourages Canadians to visit drugshortagescanada.ca for information on drug shortages and discontinuances. Patients with questions or concerns about any drug they are taking, including on what to do if that drug is not readily available, should speak to their healthcare professional.

Canadians with questions about the recalls can contact:

  • Apotex Inc. via Stericyle Inc. by calling toll-free at 1-877-492-4795;
  • Pharmascience Inc. by calling toll-free at 1-800-340-9735;
  • Pro Doc Limitée by calling toll-free at 1-800-361-8559, or by email at medinfo@prodoc.qc.ca; or
  • Teva Canada by calling toll-free at 1-800-268-4129, or by email at customer.service@tevacanada.com.

Health Canada encourages consumers to report any health product-related side effects or complaints to the Department.

Affected products
The following products containing Losartan manufactured by Hetero Labs Ltd. Unit 1 are being recalled. Health Canada maintains a complete list of sartan drugs that have been recalled because of nitrosamine impurities on its website.

Assessment is ongoing
Health Canada continues to work with companies and international regulatory partners, including the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the European Medicines Agency, to assess the issue of nitrosamine impurities in certain sartan drugs, its root causes and mitigation measures. Health Canada’s evaluation so far suggests that the nitrosamines may be generated when specific chemicals and reaction conditions are present in the manufacturing process of the drug’s API. They may also result from the reuse of materials, such as solvents or starting materials, that are contaminated with the impurities.

An API is the active ingredient in a drug that produces an effect on the body. APIs are used in the manufacture of finished “dosage form” drugs (such as pills, capsules or tablets).

In December 2018, Health Canada requested all companies that market sartans in Canada to test products already on the market and those to be released in Canada for N-nitrosodimethylamine (NDMA) and N-nitrosodiethylamine (NDEA). Health Canada also recommended that companies consider using manufacturing practices that avoid the generation and presence of all nitrosamine impurities. Health Canada has tested more than 50 samples of sartan drugs and will continue to post results of any new samples it tests on its website.

Health Canada continues to hold companies responsible for the safety and effectiveness of drugs sold in Canada and expects manufacturers to take any necessary actions to prevent the generation of nitrosamine impurities. The Department will take further steps as required to confirm that appropriate and timely action is taken to protect the health and safety of Canadians.

Manufacturers of recalled sartan APIs

Based on a review of information from a U.S. FDA inspection, Health Canada has found Hetero Labs Ltd. Unit 1 to be non-compliant with requirements for Good Manufacturing Practices (GMPs).  A non-compliant rating means that Canadian companies can no longer import drugs that contain APIs from this site unless they are medically necessary.

As previously communicated, Health Canada has also found the Chuannan site of Zhejiang Huahai Pharmaceuticals (ZHP) in China to be non-compliant with GMP requirements. This site manufactured valsartan that was found to contain nitrosamine impurities. All drugs containing valsartan manufactured by ZHP have been recalled in Canada.

GMPs are internationally accepted standards that help ensure that drugs are consistently manufactured, tested, stored and distributed in a way that meets Canada’s high safety and quality standards. A non-compliant rating does not necessarily indicate a product safety concern. It means that the Department has identified issues with how the company is following good manufacturing processes and procedures. Health Canada routinely inspects facilities or assesses inspection results from trusted international regulatory partners to make sure they meet these standards and maintains a database with inspection results. Health Canada does not generally proactively communicate on these ratings, but is updating Canadians at this time as part of its commitment to communicating its activities related to nitrosamine impurities in sartans.

Health Canada continues to collaborate with international regulators on inspections of foreign manufacturers of sartans and will take action and update Canadians as needed.

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