How does this medication work? What will it do for me?

Valsartan belongs to a family of medications known as angiotensin II receptor blockers. These medications are used to lower mild-to-moderate high blood pressure. Valsartan is also used to treat chronic heart failure or to reduce the risk of death after a heart attack in people who cannot use another type of medication called angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitor.

Angiotensin II is a chemical that the body releases to cause the constriction of blood vessels. Valsartan blocks the action of angiotensin II, resulting in the relaxation of the blood vessels. This relaxation causes the blood pressure to drop. The full effects of valsartan are usually seen within 4 weeks. Valsartan may be used alone or in combination with a diuretic (water pill).

This medication may be available under multiple brand names and/or in several different forms. Any specific brand name of this medication may not be available in all of the forms or approved for all of the conditions discussed here. As well, some forms of this medication may not be used for all of the conditions discussed here.

Your doctor may have suggested this medication for conditions other than those listed in these drug information articles. If you have not discussed this with your doctor or are not sure why you are taking this medication, speak to your doctor. Do not stop taking this medication without consulting your doctor.

Do not give this medication to anyone else, even if they have the same symptoms as you do. It can be harmful for people to take this medication if their doctor has not prescribed it.

What form(s) does this medication come in?

40 mg
Each yellow coloured, oval shaped, biconvex, film coated tablets debossed with "VN" and "1" on either side of the break line on one side and "M" on the other side contains 40 mg of valsartan. Nonmedicinal ingredients: colloidal silicon dioxide, croscarmellose sodium, crospovidone, magnesium stearate, microcrystalline cellulose and povidone. The coating contains: hypromellose, iron oxide black, iron oxide yellow, polyethylene glycol, and titanium dioxide.

80 mg
Each pale red coloured, round, biconvex, beveled edged, film coated tablets debossed with "VN 2" on one side and "M" on the other side contains 80 mg of valsartan. Nonmedicinal ingredients: colloidal silicon dioxide, croscarmellose sodium, crospovidone, magnesium stearate, microcrystalline cellulose and povidone. The coating contains: hypromellose, iron oxide red, iron oxide yellow, polyethylene glycol and titanium dioxide.

160 mg
Each grey orange, oval shaped, beveled edged, biconvex film coated tablets debossed with "VN 3" on one side and "M" on the other side contains 160 mg of valsartan. Nonmedicinal ingredients: colloidal silicon dioxide, croscarmellose sodium, crospovidone, magnesium stearate, microcrystalline cellulose and povidone. The coating contains: hypromellose, iron oxide black, iron oxide red, iron oxide yellow, polyethylene glycol and titanium dioxide.

320 mg
Each dark grey violet, oval shaped, beveled edged, biconvex film coated tablets debossed with "VN 4" on one side and "M" on the other side contains 320 mg of valsartan. Nonmedicinal ingredients: colloidal silicon dioxide, croscarmellose sodium, crospovidone, magnesium stearate, microcrystalline cellulose and povidone. The coating contains: hypromellose, iron oxide black, iron oxide red, iron oxide yellow, polyethylene glycol and titanium dioxide.

How should I use this medication?

To treat high blood pressure, the recommended starting dose of valsartan is 80 mg once daily. Reductions in blood pressure are often seen within 2 weeks, and the full effects on blood pressure are seen in about 4 weeks. Your doctor may recommend a dose increase if your blood pressure remains too high. The maximum recommended dose is 320 mg daily.  A diuretic may also be added to help reduce blood pressure.

To treat heart failure, the recommended starting dose is 40 mg twice daily. This dose is then increased gradually to a maximum recommended dose of 160 mg twice daily.

After a heart attack, the recommended starting dose of valsartan is 20 mg twice daily. Your doctor may increase the dose slowly over 1 to 2 weeks to a target dosage of 160 mg twice daily if tolerated. Other medications, such as beta-blockers, may be taken in addition to valsartan to further reduce the risk of another heart attack.

Valsartan may be taken with or without food, but it should be taken the same way each day.

Many things can affect the dose of a medication that a person needs, such as body weight, other medical conditions, and other medications. If your doctor has recommended a dose different from the ones listed here, do not change the way that you are taking the medication without consulting your doctor.

It is important to take this medication exactly as prescribed by your doctor. If you miss a dose, skip the missed dose and continue with your regular dosing schedule. Do not take a double dose to make up for a missed one. If you are not sure what to do after missing a dose, contact your doctor or pharmacist for advice.

Store this medication at room temperature and away from moisture, and keep it out of the reach of children.

Do not dispose of medications in wastewater (e.g. down the sink or in the toilet) or in household garbage. Ask your pharmacist how to dispose of medications that are no longer needed or have expired.

Who should NOT take this medication?

Do not take valsartan if you:

  • are allergic to valsartan or any ingredients of the medication
  • have experienced angioedema as a reaction to any Angiotensin Receptor Blocker (ARB)
  • are pregnant or breast-feeding
  • are taking aliskiren and have diabetes or decreased renal function

What side effects are possible with this medication?

Many medications can cause side effects. A side effect is an unwanted response to a medication when it is taken in normal doses. Side effects can be mild or severe, temporary or permanent.

The side effects listed below are not experienced by everyone who takes this medication. If you are concerned about side effects, discuss the risks and benefits of this medication with your doctor.

The following side effects have been reported by at least 1% of people taking this medication. Many of these side effects can be managed, and some may go away on their own over time.

Contact your doctor if you experience these side effects and they are severe or bothersome. Your pharmacist may be able to advise you on managing side effects.

  • back or leg pain
  • cough
  • decreased sexual ability
  • diarrhea
  • difficulty sleeping
  • dizziness or lightheadedness when rising from a lying or sitting position
  • drowsiness
  • fatigue
  • flu-like symptoms (sudden lack of energy, fever, cough, sore throat)
  • headache
  • muscle cramps
  • nausea
  • vomiting

Although most of the side effects listed below don't happen very often, they could lead to serious problems if you do not check with your doctor or seek medical attention.

Check with your doctor as soon as possible if any of the following side effects occur:

  • abdominal pain
  • fainting
  • increased frequency of cold symptoms (ear, head, and nose congestion; sneezing; sore throat; fever)
  • irregular heartbeat
  • signs of anemia (low red blood cells; e.g., dizziness,  pale skin, unusual tiredness or weakness, shortness of breath)
  • signs of bleeding (e.g., bloody nose, blood in urine, coughing blood,  bleeding gums, cuts that don't stop bleeding)
  • signs of heart problems (e.g., difficulty breathing when lying down, swelling feet or ankles, tiring easily)
  • signs of kidney problems (e.g., decreased urination, nausea, vomiting, swelling of the feet and ankles)
  • signs of inflamed blood vessels (e.g., purplish-red spots, fever, itching)
  • signs of  liver problems (e.g., nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, loss of appetite, weight loss, yellowing of the skin or whites of the eyes, dark urine, pale stools)
  • signs of too much potassium in the body (e.g., irregular heartbeat, muscle weakness, generally feeling unwell)
  • unexplained muscle pain or weakness

Stop taking the medication and seek immediate medical attention if any of the following occur:

  • signs of a serious allergic reaction (e.g., swelling of face or throat, hives, or difficulty breathing)
  • signs of a severe skin reaction such as blistering, peeling, a rash covering a large area of the body, a rash that spreads quickly, or a rash combined with fever or discomfort
Some people may experience side effects other than those listed. Check with your doctor if you notice any symptom that worries you while you are taking this medication.

Are there any other precautions or warnings for this medication?

Before you begin using a medication, be sure to inform your doctor of any medical conditions or allergies you may have, any medications you are taking, whether you are pregnant or breast-feeding, and any other significant facts about your health. These factors may affect how you should use this medication.

Drowsiness/reduced alertness: Valsartan may cause drowsiness or dizziness, affecting your ability to drive or operate machinery. Avoid these and other hazardous tasks until you have determined how this medication affects you.

Kidney problems: Valsartan may affect the function of the kidneys, especially for those people who already have kidney problems. Taking aliskiren can make these effects worse, and should not be taken with valsartan. If you have reduced kidney function or kidney disease, discuss with your doctor how this medication may affect your medical condition, how your medical condition may affect the dosing and effectiveness of this medication, and whether any special monitoring is needed.

Liver function: Valsartan is broken down by the liver. Liver disease or reduced liver function may cause this medication to build up in the body, causing side effects. If you have liver problems, discuss with your doctor how this medication may affect your medical condition, how your medical condition may affect the dosing and effectiveness of this medication, and whether any special monitoring is needed. Your doctor may want to test your liver function regularly with blood tests while you are taking this medication.

This medication may also cause a decrease in liver function. If you experience symptoms of liver problems such as fatigue, feeling unwell, loss of appetite, nausea, yellowing of the skin or whites of the eyes, dark urine, pale stools, abdominal pain or swelling, and itchy skin, contact your doctor immediately.

Low blood pressure: Occasionally, a larger-than-expected decrease in blood pressure occurs after taking valsartan. In some cases, this happens after the first dose. It is more likely to occur if you take diuretics (water pills), are taking aliskiren, have a reduced salt intake, are on dialysis, or are experiencing diarrhea or vomiting. Blood pressure should be monitored more often in these situations. Those who have low blood pressure or are just starting this medication should move slowly from a reclining to an upright position to reduce the risk of dizziness.

Pregnancy: Valsartan should not be taken by pregnant women as it can cause harm to an unborn child. If you are planning to become pregnant, discuss alternative medications for blood pressure control with your doctor. If you become pregnant while taking this medication, stop taking it and tell your doctor at once.

Breast-feeding: It is not known if valsartan passes into breast milk. If you are a breast-feeding mother and are taking this medication, it may affect your baby. Talk to your doctor about whether you should continue breast-feeding.

Children: The safety and effectiveness of this medication have not been established for children.

What other drugs could interact with this medication?

There may be an interaction between valsartan and any of the following:

  • aldesleukin
  • aliskiren
  • alpha blockers (e.g., alfuzosin, doxazosin, tamsulosin)
  • alpha agonists (e.g., clonidine, methyldopa)
  • amifostine
  • amphetamines (e.g., dextroamphetamine)
  • angiotensin converting enzyme inhibitors (ACEIs; e.g., captopril, lisinopril, ramipril)
  • other angiotensin receptor blockers (ARBs; e.g., candasartan, irbesartan, losartan)
  • barbiturates (e.g., butalbital, pentobarbital phenobarbital)
  • beta-adrenergic blockers (e.g., atenolol, propranolol, sotalol)
  • brimonidine
  • calcium channel blockers (e.g., amlodipine, diltiazem, nifedipine, verapamil)
  • canagliflozin
  • ciprofloxacin
  • cyclosporine
  • diuretics (water pills; e.g., furosemide, hydrochlorothiazide, indapamide)
  • duloxetine
  • eltrombopag
  • ephedra
  • guanfacine
  • heparin and low-molecular weight heparins (e.g., dalteparin, tinzaparin)
  • hydralazine
  • lithium
  • methylphenidate
  • monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs; e.g., moclobemide, phenelzine, rasagiline, selegiline, tranylcypromine)
  • medications that increase the level of potassium in the blood (e.g., spironolactone, amiloride, triamterene, or salt substitutes that contain potassium)
  • nitrates (e.g., nitroglycerin, isosorbide dinitrate, isosorbide mononitrate)
  • non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications (NSAIDs; e.g., diclofenac, ibuprofen, naproxen)
  • pentoxifylline
  • phosphodiesterase 5 inhibitors (e.g., sildenafil, tadalafil, vardenafil)
  • potassium supplements
  • quetiapine
  • quinine
  • risperidone
  • rituximab
  • sodium phosphates
  • tolvaptan
  • trimethoprim
  • yohimbine

If you are taking any of these medications, speak with your doctor or pharmacist. Depending on your specific circumstances, your doctor may want you to:

  • stop taking one of the medications,
  • change one of the medications to another,
  • change how you are taking one or both of the medications, or
  • leave everything as is.

An interaction between two medications does not always mean that you must stop taking one of them. Speak to your doctor about how any drug interactions are being managed or should be managed.

Medications other than those listed above may interact with this medication. Tell your doctor or prescriber about all prescription, over-the-counter (non-prescription), and herbal medications you are taking. Also tell them about any supplements you take. Since caffeine, alcohol, the nicotine from cigarettes, or street drugs can affect the action of many medications, you should let your prescriber know if you use them.