Valsartan

1. About valsartan

Valsartan is a medicine widely used to treat high blood pressure and heart failure. It's also sometimes prescribed after a heart attack.

Valsartan is only available on prescription. It comes as tablets, capsules and as a liquid that you swallow.

2. Key facts

  • Valsartan lowers your blood pressure and makes it easier for your heart to pump blood around your body.
  • It's often used as a second-choice treatment if you had to stop taking a similar medicine because it gave you a dry, irritating cough.
  • If you get severe diarrhoea or vomiting from a stomach bug or illness, tell your doctor. You may need to stop taking valsartan for a while until you feel better.
  • The main side effect of valsartan is dizziness - but it's usually mild and short-lived.
  • Valsartan is not normally recommended in pregnancy. Talk to your doctor if you're trying to get pregnant or you're already pregnant.
  • Valsartan is also called by the brand name Diovan.

3. Who can and can't take valsartan

Valsartan can be taken by adults aged 18 and over.

Children over the age of 6 years can take valsartan, but only to treat high blood pressure.

Your doctor may prescribe valsartan if you've tried taking blood pressure-lowering medicines called ACE inhibitors - such as ramipril and lisinopril - but had to stop taking them because of side effects such as a dry, irritating cough.

Valsartan isn't suitable for some people.

To make sure valsartan is safe for you, tell your doctor if you:

  • have had an allergic reaction to valsartan or other medicines in the past
  • have severe liver disease
  • have diabetes
  • have heart or kidney problems
  • have recently had a kidney transplant
  • have diarrhoea or vomiting (or have recently had this)
  • are on a low-salt diet
  • have low blood pressure
  • are trying to get pregnant, are already pregnant or if you are breastfeeding

4. How and when to take it

It's usual to take valsartan once or twice a day.

If you take valsartan once a day, your doctor may suggest that you take your first dose before bedtime, because it can make you dizzy. After the very first dose, you can take valsartan at any time of day. Try to take it at the same time every day.

You can take valsartan tablets with or without food. Swallow the tablets whole with a drink of water.

How much will I take?

The dose of valsartan you take depends on why you need the medicine. Take it as instructed by your doctor.

The usual dose for adults is:

  • 80mg to 320mg once a day for high blood pressure
  • 40mg to 160mg twice a day for heart failure
  • 20mg to 160mg twice a day after a recent heart attack

The dose may be lower if you've recently lost body fluids (for example because you've been sick or have diarrhoea).

The dose for children depends on their weight. The usual dose for children is:

  • 40mg to 80mg once a day (for children weighing 18kg to 35kg)
  • 80mg to 160mg once a day (for children weighing 35kg to 80kg)
  • 80mg to 320mg once a day (for children weighing 80kg and more)

Will my dose go up or down?

After a few weeks your doctor will check your blood pressure and ask you if you're getting any side effects. You may also have blood tests to check how well your kidneys are working and the amount of potassium in your blood. Your doctor will then decide whether to change your dose of valsartan.

If valsartan doesn't bring your blood pressure down, your doctor may want to increase the dose. If your blood pressure gets too low or you get side effects, your doctor may want to lower your dose of valsartan.

How to take it

You can take valsartan tablets with or without food. Swallow the tablets with a drink of water.

If you're taking valsartan as a liquid, it will come with a plastic syringe or spoon to help you measure out the right dose. If you don't have one, ask your pharmacist for one. Do not use a kitchen teaspoon as it will not give the right amount of medicine.

Some people take valsartan in combination with other medicines:

  • with amlodipine (brand name Exforge) to treat high blood pressure
  • with hydrochlorothiazide (brand name Co-Diovan) to treat high blood pressure
  • with sacubitril (brand name Entresto) to treat a type of long-term heart failure

Important

Take valsartan even if you feel well, as you will still be getting the benefits of the medicine.

What if I get sick while I'm taking it?

If you get severe diarrhoea or vomiting for any reason, contact your doctor or a pharmacist. They’ll be able to advise you about what to do.

They may recommend that you stop taking valsartan until you’re better, and you’re able to eat and drink normally again.

What if I forget to take it?

If you miss a dose of valsartan, take it as soon as you remember, unless it's almost time for your next dose. Do not take a double dose to make up for a forgotten one.

If you forget doses often, it may help to set an alarm to remind you. You could also ask your pharmacist for advice on other ways to help you remember to take your medicine.

What if I take too much?

If you take too many valsartan tablets by accident, contact your doctor or go to your nearest hospital A&E department straight away. An overdose of valsartan can cause dizziness, sleepiness and a pounding heartbeat.

The amount of valsartan that can lead to an overdose varies from person to person.

Call a doctor or go to A&E as soon as possible if you've taken too much valsartan

If you need to go to hospital, do not drive yourself - get someone else to drive you or call for an ambulance.

Take the valsartan packet or leaflet inside it plus any remaining medicine with you.

5. Side effects

Like all medicines, valsartan can cause side effects although not everyone gets them. Side effects often improve as your body gets used to the medicine.

Common side effects

These common side effects happen in more than 1 in 100 people:

  • feeling dizzy or having a spinning sensation (vertigo)
  • headaches
  • feeling sick (nausea)
  • being sick (vomiting) or diarrhoea
  • pain in your joints or muscles

Talk to your doctor or pharmacist if these side effects bother you or don't go away.

Serious side effects

It happens rarely, but some people have serious side effects after taking valsartan.

Call a doctor straight away if you have:

  • yellow skin or the whites of your eyes turn yellow - this can be a sign of liver problems
  • pale skin, feeling tired, faint or dizzy, purple spots, any sign of bleeding, sore throat and fever - these can be signs of blood or bone marrow disorder
  • weakness, an irregular heartbeat, pins and needles and muscle cramps - these can be signs of changes in the sodium and potassium levels in your blood

Serious allergic reaction

In rare cases, valsartan may cause a serious allergic reaction (anaphylaxis).

Contact a doctor straight away if:

  • you get a skin rash that may include itchy, red, swollen, blistered or peeling skin
  • you're wheezing
  • you get tightness in the chest or throat
  • you have trouble breathing or talking
  • your mouth, face, lips, tongue or throat start swelling

These are warning signs of a serious allergic reaction. A serious allergic reaction is an emergency.

These are not all the side effects of valsartan. For a full list, see the leaflet inside your medicines packet.

Information:

You can report any suspected side effect to the UK safety scheme.

6. How to cope with side effects

What to do about:

  • feeling dizzy - if valsartan makes you feel dizzy when you stand up, try getting up very slowly or stay sitting down until you feel better. If you begin to feel dizzy, lie down so that you don't faint, then sit until you feel better. Do not drive or use tools or machines if you feel dizzy, have muscle cramps or muscle pain, or if you just feel a bit shaky.
  • headaches - make sure you rest and drink plenty of fluids. Do not drink too much alcohol. Ask your pharmacist to recommend a painkiller. Headaches should usually go away after the first week of taking valsartan. Talk to your doctor if they last longer than a week or are severe.
  • feeling sick (nausea) - try taking your tablets with or after a meal or snack. It may also help if you don't eat rich or spicy food.
  • being sick (vomiting) or diarrhoea - drink plenty of fluids, such as water or squash, to prevent dehydration. If you're being sick, take small, frequent sips. Speak to a pharmacist if you have signs of dehydration, such as peeing less than usual or having dark, strong-smelling pee. If you get severe diarrhoea or vomiting from a stomach bug or illness, tell your doctor. You may need to stop taking valsartan for a while until you feel better.
  • pain in your joints or muscles - if you get unusual muscle pain, weakness or tiredness that isn't from exercise or hard work, talk to your doctor. You may need a blood test to check what might be causing it.

7. Pregnancy and breastfeeding

Valsartan is not normally recommended in pregnancy or when breastfeeding. However, your doctor may prescribe it if they think the benefits of the medicine outweigh the risks.

If you're trying to get pregnant or you're already pregnant, talk to your doctor about the benefits and possible harms of taking valsartan. These will depend on how many weeks pregnant you are and the reason you need to take it. There may be other treatments that are safer for you.

For more information about how valsartan can affect you and your baby during pregnancy, visit the Best Use of Medicines in Pregnancy (BUMPS) website.

Valsartan and breastfeeding

Small amounts of valsartan may get into breast milk. This can cause low blood pressure in the baby. Talk to your doctor, as other medicines might be better while you are breastfeeding.

Tell your doctor if you're:

  • trying to get pregnant
  • pregnant
  • breastfeeding

8. Cautions with other medicines

Some medicines interfere with the way valsartan works.

Tell your doctor if you're taking:

  • other medicines to help lower your blood pressure, including aliskiren, enalapril, captopril, lisinopril or ramipril
  • painkillers such as ibuprofen, naproxen, diclofenac, celecoxib or etoricoxib
  • aspirin (if you are taking more than 3g a day)
  • potassium supplements or salt substitutes that contain potassium
  • heparin (a medicine for thinning your blood)
  • diuretics (medicines which make you pee more)
  • lithium (a medicine for mental health problems)
  • spironolactone (a medicine to treat heart failure)

Mixing valsartan with herbal remedies or supplements

There's very little information about taking herbal remedies and supplements with valsartan.

Important

For safety, tell your doctor or pharmacist if you're taking any other medicines, including herbal remedies, vitamins or supplements.

9. Common questions

Page last reviewed: 13/12/2018
Next review due: 13/12/2021