Researchers at the Mayo Clinic have linked severe gastrointestinal issues to a commonly prescribed blood pressure drug called Olmesartan, brand name Benicar. The study has been published in the medical journal Mayo Clinic Proceedings.
The study came about as a result of two consecutive patients of Dr. Joseph Murray, M.D., Mayo Clinic gastroenterologist, who were referred to him with what was assumed to be celiac disease. The patients presented many of the same symptoms of celiac disease such as, chronic diarrhea and weight loss. They were referred to him after common treatments for celiac, such as a gluten free diet, failed to produce any positive results. The patients had been hospitalized, and while in the hospital their symptoms improved however, after they were discharged, the symptoms relapsed. It turns out that these patients were taken off Olmesartan during their hospital stay as a a result of low blood pressure. This caught Dr. Murray’s attention.
Mayo clinic physicians treated 22 patients between 2008-2011 with these similar symptoms. The patients were from 17 states and some had actually been diagnosed with celiac disease. Interestingly though, blood tests did not show the typical antibodies associated with celiac disease. Once they were able to make the association between these symptoms and Olmesartan, the doctors stopped the medications. All the patients showed improvement. Some took longer than others and some even needed nutritional assistance. “It’s really an awareness issue. We want doctors to be aware of this issue, so if they see a patient who is having this type of syndrome — they think about medications as a possible association,” Dr. Murray says. “We’ve reported an association. What needs to be known next is the science to understand why there is such an association.”
Below, you can see a video of Dr. Murray describing his findings.