These blood-pressure lowering drugs can also be used to treat certain heart and kidney conditions.
Angiotensin receptor blockers — commonly known as ARBs — are a class of drugs used to treat high blood pressure.
ARBs lower blood pressure by preventing blood vessels from constricting.
They do this by blocking a special protein called angiotensin II from binding to certain areas of blood vessels.
Drugs in the ARB class include:
- Atacand (candesartan)
- Teveten (eprosartan)
- Benicar (olmesartan)
- Micardis (telmisartan)
- Micardis HCT (telmisartan with hydrochlorothiazide)
- Cozaar (losartan)
- Avapro (irbesartan)
- Avalide (irbesartan and hydrochlorothiazide)
- Hyzaar (losartan and hydrochlorothiazide)
- Diovan (valsartan)
Although most commonly used to control blood pressure, ARBs can be prescribed for a variety of conditions affecting the heart and other organs, such as congestive heart failure, kidney failure, and kidney disease in people with diabetes.
Doctors may prescribe ARBs in place of drugs called angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors for people who can't take ACE inhibitors, either because they're allergic to them or because the drugs produce a cough that doesn't go away.
Off-label, ARBs may be used to treat a condition called scleroderma, which causes the skin and organs of the body to stiffen and become "rock-like."
Warnings and Precautions
All ARBs have a black-box warning required by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) because of their potential to harm or even kill a fetus if a woman takes these drugs while pregnant.
Any woman who is pregnant, or suspects she might be pregnant, and is taking an ARB should stop taking the ARB right away and contact her doctor immediately.
Although doctors often prescribe ARBs to help protect the kidneys, people with certain kidney conditions — like narrowing of the arteries feeding the kidneys (renal artery stenosis) or very poor kidney function — shouldn't take ARBs.
Avoid ARBs if you:
- Are allergic to ARBs or their inactive ingredients
- Have low levels of sodium in the blood
- Have a serious case of congestive heart failure
Common Side Effects
Taking ARBs may result in:
- Nausea, vomiting
- Muscle and/or bone pain
- Sudden drop in blood pressure upon standing
- High potassium levels in blood (with long-term use)
Don't take an ARB if you're already taking a drug that contains aliskiren, such as:
Generally, you shouldn't take ARBs if you're already taking an ACE inhibitor, such as:
- Capoten (captopril)
- Zestril (lisinopril)
- Prinivil (lisinopril)
- Altace (ramipril)
- Lotensin (benazepril)
- Mavik (trandolapril)
Although these drugs belong to a different class and work differently from ARBs, they produce many of the same effects in the body, which could cause serious harm when combined with ARBs.
Finally, don't take ARBs if you're taking the mood stabilizer Lithobid (lithium).