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Vietnam recalls 57 heart drugs with cancer-causing substance

By Nam Phuong   August 3, 2018 | 05:00 pm PT
Vietnam recalls 57 heart drugs with cancer-causing substance
57 heart drugs in Vietnam were found to contain a carcinogen made by Chinese firm Zhejiang Huahai Pharmaceutical Co. Photo by Reuters
Vietnam’s health ministry has recalled 57 types of cardiac medications found to contain a carcinogen made by a Chinese firm.

The Drug Administration of Vietnam said the recalled drugs contained valsartan, a substance produced by a firm in China which was found to have N-nitrosodimethylamine (NDMA), which can cause cancer if used over a long period.

It said 32 of the drugs recalled were processed in Vietnam and 25 were imported.

The made-in-Vietnam drugs were produced by 13 companies that imported valsartan from Chinese firm Zhejiang Huahai Pharmaceutical Co., Ltd.

The imported drugs originated in Bangladesh, India, Poland, South Korea and Spain, but producers in these countries also bought valsartan from the same Chinese producer to make the drugs, the administration said.

In Vietnam, the cardiac medications that contain valsartan are used to treat high blood pressure, heart failure and deal with the aftermath of heart attack.

The administration has issued a list of the 57 drugs that it wants to recall and requested producers and importers across the country to stop selling or using those drugs, and recall them as soon as possible.

It has also assured patients that the recall is unlikely to lead to a shortage of cardiac drugs, because there are currently 39 made-in-Vietnam drug types and 54 imported ones that contain valsartan without the cancer causing substance like the one produced in China.

Valsartan was initially developed by Swiss firm Novart and was sold on the market under the trade name Diovan.

When Novart’s monopoly protection for the drug expired, many brands jumped in to make the drug, including Zhejiang Huahai Pharmaceutical.

The European Medicines Agency and several other countries withdrew medications that contain valsartan produced by Zhejiang Huahai Pharmaceutical in July, confirming that it contained N-nitrosodimethylamine.

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