Earlier this month, Japanese drugmaker Daiichi Sankyo said it has agreed to pay up to $300 million to settle almost 2,300 lawsuits related to Benicar, Benicar HCT, Azor and Tribenzor.
The cases stem from accusations that the manufacturer failed to warn the public about the severe side effects from taking Benicar and the related drugs. According to the company, the lawsuits were filed beginning in January 2014.
Glenn Gormley, the executive chairman for Daiichi Sankyo, did not consider the settlement an admission of liability, stating in a news release that "a settlement is in the best interest of all, and will allow us to continue our focus on bringing to market innovative medicines that help people live healthy and meaningful lives."
Daiichi Sankyo first developed the blood pressure drug Benicar in 1995 and it has since been prescribed across the United States for treating hypertension. Like most prescription medications, it contains side effects. Depending on the severity, these side effects may lead to serious complications.
Benicar works by dilating the blood vessels, hence lowering blood pressure. However, a number of the 11 million Americans taking the medication have reported gastrointestinal side effects similar to symptoms of celiac disease. This has led to some doctors incorrectly prescribing a gluten-free diet.
But an even more dangerous Benicar side effect is intestinal damage, and the body’s subsequent inability to absorb nutrients. This condition is called sprue-like enteropathy. When the colon can no longer absorb water from the waste it creates, the result is chronic diarrhea, weight loss, and malnutrition. The body is unable to properly fight infection without nutrients.
Treatment for the side effects of Benicar alone involves extensive hospitalization, potentially even twice as long as for hypertension.
Despite its Black Box warnings, updated labeling and safety announcements from the Food and Drug Administration, and now potential cardiovascular risk, Benicar remains on the market.