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Angiotensin II Receptor Blockers (ARBs)

Examples

Generic Name Brand Name
candesartan Atacand
eprosartan Teveten
irbesartan Avapro
losartan Cozaar
olmesartan Benicar
telmisartan Micardis
valsartan Diovan

Angiotensin II receptor blockers combined with diuretic

Generic Name Brand Name
irbesartan and hydrochlorothiazide Avalide
losartan and hydrochlorothiazide Hyzaar

How It Works

Angiotensin II receptor blockers inhibit a substance that causes blood vessels to narrow (constrict). As a result, blood vessels relax and widen (dilate), making it easier for blood to flow through the vessels, which reduces blood pressure. These medicines also increase the release of water and salt (sodium) to the urine, which in turn lowers blood pressure as well.

Preventing the blood vessels from constricting helps improve blood flow, which reduces the backup of blood in the heart and lungs. It also decreases the pressure that the left ventricle of the heart must pump against.

Angiotensin II receptor blockers also act directly on the hormones that regulate sodium and water balance.

Why It Is Used

Angiotensin II receptor blockers can be used to treat coronary artery disease or heart failure in some people who cannot tolerate ACE inhibitors or who have kidney disease from diabetes (diabetic nephropathy) and in people with type 2 diabetes.

An angiotensin II receptor blocker (ARB) may be used instead of an angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitor if you are not able to tolerate certain side effects of an ACE inhibitor. ACE inhibitors can cause an annoying cough. This cough may be hard for some people to live with. So doctors may prescribe an ARB instead, because ARBs are less likely to cause a cough.

How Well It Works

ARBs can lower the risk of death from heart failure. ARBs also reduce the number of people with heart failure who need to go into the hospital. ARBs have been shown to work as well as ACE inhibitors for heart failure.1 ARBs are less likely to cause the cough that is associated with ACE inhibitors.

For advanced heart failure, an ARB may be taken with an ACE inhibitor to help lower the risk of dying or needing to go into the hospital.1 But if you take an ARB with an ACE inhibitor, you have a higher risk for kidney problems and for potassium levels that are too high.2 For this reason, you will likely need close monitoring.

If you are taking an ARB because you have diabetes and early signs of kidney problems, or have kidney disease, these medicines can slow or prevent further damage to your kidneys.3

Side Effects

All medicines have side effects. But many people don't feel the side effects, or they are able to deal with them. Ask your pharmacist about the side effects of each medicine you take. Side effects are also listed in the information that comes with your medicine.

Here are some important things to think about:

  • Usually the benefits of the medicine are more important than any minor side effects.
  • Side effects may go away after you take the medicine for a while.
  • If side effects still bother you and you wonder if you should keep taking the medicine, call your doctor. He or she may be able to lower your dose or change your medicine. Do not suddenly quit taking your medicine unless your doctor tells you to.

Call 911 or other emergency services right away if you have:

  • Trouble breathing.
  • Swelling of your face, lips, tongue, or throat.

Call your doctor if you have:

  • Hives.

Common side effects of this medicine include:

  • Dizziness or lightheadedness.
  • Sinus problems, such as a stuffy nose or a runny nose.
  • Stomach problems.

See Drug Reference for a full list of side effects. (Drug Reference is not available in all systems.)

What To Think About

Tell your doctor about all of the other medicines that you take, including prescription and over-the-counter medicines. ARBs may interact with other medicines such as NSAID pain relievers (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs), antacids, potassium supplements, certain diuretics, and lithium. If you are taking one of these medicines, talk with your doctor before taking an ARB.

Taking medicine

Medicine is one of the many tools your doctor has to treat a health problem. Taking medicine as your doctor suggests will improve your health and may prevent future problems. If you don't take your medicines properly, you may be putting your health (and perhaps your life) at risk.

There are many reasons why people have trouble taking their medicine. But in most cases, there is something you can do. For suggestions on how to work around common problems, see the topic Taking Medicines as Prescribed.

For tips on taking medicine for heart failure, see:

Click here to view an Actionset.Heart Failure: Taking Medicines Properly.

Advice for women

Do not use this medicine if you are pregnant or planning to get pregnant. If you need to use this medicine, talk to your doctor about how you can prevent pregnancy.

Checkups

You will likely have regular blood tests to monitor how the medicine is working in your body and to see if this medicine is causing problems.

Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.

Complete the new medication information form (PDF)new medication information form (PDF)(What is a PDF document?) to help you understand this medication.

References

Citations

  1. McKelvie R (2011). Heart failure, search date August 2010. BMJ Clinical Evidence. Available online: http://www.clinicalevidence.com.
  2. Wolpert C, Borggrefe M (2008). The implantable cardioverter defibrillator. In V Fuster et al., eds., Hurst's The Heart, 12th ed., pp. 1109–1120. New York: McGraw-Hill Medical.
  3. Drugs for hypertension (2009). Treatment Guidelines From The Medical Letter, 7(77): 1–10.

Credits

By Healthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer Rakesh K. Pai, MD, FACC - Cardiology, Electrophysiology
Specialist Medical Reviewer Margaret Hetherington, PHM, BsC - Pharmacy
Last Revised April 26, 2012

Last Revised: April 26, 2012

Author: Healthwise Staff

Medical Review: Rakesh K. Pai, MD, FACC - Cardiology, Electrophysiology & Margaret Hetherington, PHM, BsC - Pharmacy

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