Azilsartan is a prescription only drug that is used to treat patients with high blood pressure (hypertension) and various cardiovascular diseases. [ref 1] Azilsartan belongs to a family of medication called the Angiotensin Receptor Blockers, which help to reduce the pressure in the blood vessels that has led to hypertension, by relaxing the vessels and opening them up. This improves blood flow to the heart and other vital organs and in turn lowers blood pressure in the patient. Azilsartan prevents the blood vessels from narrowing, so it is also occasionally used as a preventative drug for those that are at higher risk of developing hypertension - such as those diagnosed with type 2 diabetes.
High blood pressure is common as people get older and is often experienced by those diagnosed with type 2 diabetes and other heart conditions. If left untreated, high blood pressure can have a long term and damaging impact on the patient’s health, leading to increased risk of strokes, heart attacks and kidney problems. Lowering the pressure in the blood is essential in reducing these risks, and leads to an overall improved quality of life for the patient.
Azilsartan is usually prescribed to those with high blood pressure as part of a holistic treatment program designed to improve the condition. There are various lifestyle changes that patients can make along with taking azilsartan as part of their treatment, such as improving their diets – for example, by cutting out excess sugar and processed foods – and increasing the amount of exercise undertaken.
Azilsartan is also marketed and sold under its brand name, Edarbi, in the United States, and was developed by pharma company Takeda. It is often prescribed in conjunction with other drugs.
Although azilsartan is a widely-used drug in the treatment of high blood pressure, there are various side effects of which patients should be aware. Some of these are commonly experienced during the initial stages of a course of treatment and are generally nothing to worry about. However, in rare cases, more severe side effects may develop. If symptoms persist or if the side effects are particularly uncomfortable, the patient should seek medical advice as soon as possible.
The dose prescribed of azilsartan will depend on the individual patient. The starting dose is usually 80 mg taken orally once per day. This dose is not normally adjusted. However, for those patients that are on high diuretic doses, a starting dose of 40 mg taken once per day may be recommended.
You can take your azilsartan with or without food. Do not consume foods with high concentration of potassium while taking this medication, including many salt substitutes. You may take your dose of azilsartan with other antihypertensive drugs.
Always stick to the dose prescribed by your doctor. Do not attempt to increase or reduce your dose. If you want to come off the medication, speak to your doctor first, who may recommend that you reduce the dosage gradually.
You must always tell your doctor if you are on any other medications, for this condition or any other condition. This is because there are some drugs that can interact with others. As a result, these drugs may be dangerous or ineffective to take together. If you are on any other drugs that are known to interact with azilsartan, it may be decided that an alternative drug could be more suitable. In other instances, your doctor may just alter the dosage.
There are 545 other medications that have been found to cause some level of reaction with azilsartan. [ref 2] These include two with minor interactions, 472 with moderate interactions and 71 with major interactions. The drugs with major interactions are listed below. If you are taking any of these drugs, you should tell your doctor right away.
Alcohol is the only consumable that has been found to have a major interaction with azilsartan. Patients taking this medication should avoid taking alcohol during the prescription. Consuming alcohol while taking azilsartan can impact the lowering of the blood pressure and can result in side effects such as dizziness, headache, fainting, changes in heart rate and light-headedness.
You may also be particularly vulnerable to the effects of alcohol if you are taking azilsartan. If you do decide to drink alcohol while taking azilsartan, you should keep it to a minimum (e.g. one drink for women per day and two drinks for men per day) and you should avoid participating in any tasks that require you to be mentally alert until you are sure all traces of alcohol have faded from your system. Also, take extra care when you are getting up from a sitting or lying position after taking azilsartan and alcohol. Getting up too quickly can result in dizziness, blurred vision and nausea.
Always tell your healthcare professional if you have any allergies prior to starting a course of azilsartan, particularly if you have experienced allergic reactions when taking this drug or others that are similar to it.
You must tell your doctor if you are pregnant or expect you are pregnant before taking this medication. He or she may decide that you should not take azilsartan because of a risk of damage to an unborn baby.
Studies have found that azilsartan causes fetal toxicity, and therefore a cycle must be discountinued as soon as the patient discovers she is pregnant. The drug impacts directly on the renin-angiotensin system, which can result in damage and even death to the fetus.
Other medications may be more suitable for you if you discover you are pregnant. There are, however, some rare cases where the health benefits to the mother outweigh the risks to the fetus. Your doctor or physician will be able to make a judgement on whether it is safe to continue with your prescription of azilsartan.
Azilsartan is most effective when it is taken at the recommended times each day. If you forget to take one of your tablets, you can just take it when you remember. Do not take it if it has become too close to your next dose. Instead, skip that dose entirely. If you forget to take two or three tablets, take your next dose as soon as you remember, continuing your course as normal. If you forget to take more than three tablets, contact your doctor for advice.
You should always tell your doctor about any other underlying conditions that you have or think you may have. Just like with other medications, there are other conditions that interact with azilsartan, meaning that it may not be suitable for you to take the drug. If you suffer from any of the below, azilsartan can make these conditions worse; or those conditions could make azilsartan less effective. There may also be different medication that would be more effective at treating your combination of conditions.
Always keep azilsartan prescriptions away from children and pets. This means keeping the tablets in the box in which they were supplied. If your azilsartan prescription was given to you in a tub with a childproof lid, always make sure that lid is locked when you are not using the drug.
Keep the medication in a lockable medical cabinet ideally, so that it can only be accessed by you. Do not give your medication to anyone else; your prescription is personal to you and your health conditions and it may be unsafe for others to take it.
Keep your medication in moderate and dry conditions. Do not store it in proximity of direct sources of light or heat, including sunlight and radiators. Room temperature (or that not exceeding 25 degrees centigrade, or falling below 15 degrees centigrade) is ideal for azilsartan. You should also keep your azilsartan away from water or damp conditions, e.g. do not store it in your bathroom.
If you find that you no longer need your azilsartan prescription, you should dispose of it. However, there are correct ways to dispose of medication so that they do not get into the possession of children or animals, or harm the environment. If you live in an area with a take-back scheme, you can easily arrange for the collection and recycle of your drugs. These schemes are approved by the FDA and can professionally dispose of unused and unwanted medicines.
Of course, there are some locations where there are no take-back schemes available. If this is the case, always follow the FDA’s guidelines on disposing of medication. Take the tablets out of their box, and mix them with a substance such as cat litter or soil. Do not try to ground the azilsartan. Place the mixture into a plastic bag that can be tightly sealed (like a sandwich bag) and then place into your trash can for regular garbage collection.
When used as part of a treatment programme for those with hypertension, azilsartan can be very effective in lowering blood pressure in a safe and fast way. Patients who have the condition, or are at higher risk of developing it, should also complement their treatment with proactive and positive changes to their dietary habits and exercise regimes.
The drug has been found to be generally safe for mid- to long-term use [ref 3/4] and, in many cases lowering the patient’s blood pressure over a four-week period. The drug can then be used to maintain the lower blood pressure until the patient is able to maintain it naturally through his or her lifestyle choices. Azilsartan is also effective as a preventative treatment for those at risk of developing high blood pressure and has been proven to improve the health and wellbeing of patients with diabetes and heart conditions.
Patients should be regularly monitored throughout their course of azilsartan, particularly those that are new to the medication. Side effects in the early stages of taking azilsartan are common while the body adapts to it. Also, the first few weeks of the treatment are crucial to assessing the drug’s effectiveness in lowering blood pressure. It is in these few weeks that, if the treatment is ineffective, another drug can be prescribed, or the dosage can be adjusted.