Angiotensin II receptor blockers (ARBs) for high blood pressure


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

How It Works

These medicines block the action of a hormone that causes blood vessels to narrow. As a result, blood vessels may relax and open up. This makes it easier for blood to flow through the vessels, which reduces blood pressure. Also, these drugs increase the release of sodium and water into the urine, which also lowers blood pressure.

Why It Is Used

Angiotensin II receptor blockers (ARBs) may be used alone or combined with other medicine—often a diuretic—to treat high blood pressure.

ARBs may be used by people who cannot take ACE inhibitor medicines. 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. ARBs are less likely to cause a cough.

Who should not take ARBs

These drugs should not be taken by women who are pregnant or may become pregnant.

People with advanced kidney failure may require regular blood tests to make sure these medicines do not reduce kidney function or raise potassium levels.

How Well It Works

Angiotensin II receptor blockers (ARBs) reduce blood pressure as effectively as angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors but are less likely to cause the cough that is associated with ACE inhibitors.

ARBs may be combined with another medicine, such as a diuretic, into one pill. An example is eprosartan mesylate (Teveten).

Side Effects

Side effects include:

  • Diarrhea.
  • Stomach problems.
  • Muscle cramps.
  • Back and leg pain.
  • Dizziness.
  • Insomnia.
  • Nasal congestion.
  • Sinus problems.
  • Upper respiratory infection.

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

What To Think About

Pregnant women should not take ARBs.

ARBs may interact with other medicines such as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), antacids, potassium supplements, certain diuretics, and lithium. If you are taking one of these medicines, talk with your doctor before taking an ARB.

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