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Diovan Side Effects & Mild High Blood Pressure

One of the most popular blood pressure pills in the pharmacy these days is Diovan (valsartan). It belongs to a class of medications called ARBs (angiotensin receptor blockers). Other drugs in the class include:


  • Candesartan (Atacand)
  • Eprosartan (Teveten)
  • Irbesartan (Avapro)
  • Losartan (Cozaar)
  • Losartan + HCTZ (Hyzaar)
  • Olmesartan (Benicar)
  • Telmisartan (Micardis)
  • Valsartan (Diovan)

ARBs are supposed to be easier to tolerate than ACEIs (angiotensin converting enzyme inhibitors) like lisinopril or enalapril, which can cause an uncontrollable cough. But ARBs like Diovan are not without their own side effects:

Q. I have had a persistent, non-productive cough for over a year now. This is my second episode. My first episode occurred about three years ago but abated suddenly. At that time I was taking quinapril (Accupril). Today, I’m on Diovan/HCT. During my first episode I went to see a pulmonologist, who ordered a CT scan and breathing tests (spirometry). Nothing definitive was found. He prescribed an inhaler (Alvesco) and cough medicine (Tessalon); neither proved effective.
The very same afternoon I visited an ENT [ear, nose & throat specialist], who stuck a probe down my throat, looked around, and found nothing notable.

Currently I’m with a new pulmonologist. I described the symptoms of my cough in great detail, hoping that will lead to a cause and cure. The following triggers often bring on my cough:

1. Attempts to speak
2. Aromas of certain foods
3. An occasional spasm sensation in my upper chest and lower throat
4. Leaning back in a chair, or lying down completely

I know that lisinopril can cause a bad cough. What about my situation?

A. Many physicians think that ARBs in general and Diovan in particular are super safe and rarely cause side effects. They assume that ARBs, unlike ACE inhibitors such as lisinopril, do not cause a cough. Although many people don’t experience a cough while taking Diovan, a minority does. There is no good treatment for this kind of cough that doesn’t respond to cough suppressants. An alternate approach to blood pressure control is called for.

Here are some other side effects to be alert for:

  • dizziness, low blood pressure
  • stomachache, diarrhea
  • back pain, joint pain, headache
  • elevated potassium levels
  • angioedema (a rare but serious reaction with swelling of the lips, tongue, throat or intestines)
  • liver inflammation
  • muscle breakdown

Diovan and other ARBs are not appropriate during pregnancy, because there is a possibility of damage to the fetus.
Other readers have reported similar difficulties with Diovan. Here are some of their stories:

“My husband has been on a couple different blood pressure medications. He is now taking Diovan and has had a terrible cough. The doctors have treated him for sinus infection, allergies, bronchitis, etc. I really feel it is the Diovan. It is a continuing cough that drives him crazy, and me too!”

“I have been suffering with a variety of problems that have been attributed to other causes besides my meds. I resided in a FEMA trailer for 17 months after Katrina. So I now have Restrictive Pulmonary Disease (RPD) as a consequence of that exposure.

“While the doctors figured that out, I was also diagnosed with high blood pressure. I was then put on Micardis HCT. It worked for about three years, though it gave me a nagging cough. That was always passed off to the RPD.
“About five months ago I started having severe fluctuations in my BP in a matter of minutes, causing dizziness. The doctor changed me to Diovan HCT. This drug has controlled my BP, but I have had a HORRIBLE cough and it seems to be getting worse and worse. On a lark I typed in ‘coughing to the point of unconsciousness’ and this site popped up. I am in complete sympathy with those experiencing the same symptom and relieved to see that someone else is having this problem.”

“When I took Diovan I started having severe–I mean severe–heart palpitations and skipped beats. I thought I was going to die right there. I never had one minute of steady pulse. It took several days for these symptoms to show up and a couple of days to go away after I stopped the Diovan.

“A different doctor prescribed acebutolol, which keeps my BP fine without palpitations. I had to hunt down this side effect for myself, since the first doctor never warned me.”

“I got a terrible cough on an ACE inhibitor, trandolopril. I was switched to Diovan (an ARB) but that sent me to the ER with a heart rate of 200 and chest pain.”

“I too had a cough. I was sent to an ENT and he prescribed meds to soothe my throat. That was one doctor bill. Then I went to an allergist and went through all the tests. More bills, still coughing. Then they did a scan of my lungs, but I had absolutely nothing wrong. Needless to say, more bills. This cough had been going on for over a year by this time. I decided to take myself off Atacand.

“The coughing stopped, but my doctor put me on Diovan because my blood pressure went up. The cough was horrible. Now I am taking a low dose of Atacand. I still cough but not as badly.

“I know this medication protects the kidneys, but my quality of life isn’t very good without sleep. My big question is: Why don’t doctors check the blood pressure medication first? All these tests are very pricey.”

“I am on Diovan, and I have that nasty cough. I am hoping that I can get off of the BP meds all together. I am trying to follow the DASH diet (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension), eating lots of fruits and veggies. My BP appears to be coming down.

“I quit eating anything canned, since everything canned has a lot of sodium. I don’t use salt in my cooking, but sprinkle a little on my dinner. Other than that, I eat no salt. It appears to be helping! Only time will tell.”

There is plenty of evidence that the DASH diet can lower blood pressure about as well as medication (Nutrition Reviews, Feb. 2006), and there aren’t any unpleasant side effects, only a lower risk of diabetes, dementia and depression. This might be a viable approach for those willing to try it, especially since there is no good evidence that treating mild hypertension with drugs actually helps people live longer (Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, Aug. 15, 2012).

For more details about the DASH diet and other nondrug approaches to lowering blood pressure, we offer our affordable Guide to Blood Pressure Treatment. There is an entire chapter devoted to high blood pressure in our book, Best Choices From The People’s Pharmacy. We also discuss doctors who don’t warn patients about side effects or who fail to recognize a new problem as a drug reaction in our paperback, Top Screwups Doctors Make and How to Avoid Them.

We invite you to share your experience with Diovan or other antihypertensive medications below. Sometimes it is a relief to realize you are not the only person who has experienced a particular side effect.

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About the Author
Terry Graedon, PhD, is a medical anthropologist and co-host of The People’s Pharmacy radio show, co-author of The People’s Pharmacy syndicated newspaper columns and numerous books, and co-founder of The People’s Pharmacy website. Terry taught in the Duke University School of Nursing and was an adjunct assistant professor in the Department of Anthropology. She is a Fellow of the Society of Applied Anthropology. Terry is one of the country's leading authorities on the science behind folk remedies. .
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comments (18 total)
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I took Diovan for about 10 years. I have been off of it for over 12 years. I was switched to Losartan and was taken off of it when it was recalled. I am now taking Nifedipine with no problems. Is this drug safe?

Nifedipine is considered safe. Like other calcium channel blockers, it can cause some side effects.

I have been taking Valsartan 85mg/day with bendroflumethiazide 2.5mg a day for 23 years. I was diagnosed with hypertention when I was 37, I am no 60. In the last three or four years I have been getting an inflamaiton in my aorta. I didn’t know what this pain was, it was a non specific sore feeling that came and went.

I went to see my GP three of four times about this but the symptoms were not addressed nor did my cardiolgist address these symptoms over a period of 3 years. Recently the symptoms went through the roof and I was getting intense periods of inflamation in my thoracic aorta.

I was convinced I was about to suffer a ruptured aneurism which is sudden death. I made a lot of noise and I am now on a beta blocker and the side effects have almost disappeared over night, it took a long time to discover it was Valsartan. I can’t tell you what a relief it is to get Valsartan out of my life. Valsartan should be banned now, it’s long term side effects are very dangerous.

I have been using a beta blocker for about 25 years. I have reduced dosage to 12.5 mg a day. I also started Diovan about 6 years ago. I have developed psoriasis on my legs and back. I know that a rash is listed as a side effect but in my mind there is a difference between rash and psoriasis. No one tells you this. I am thinking about taking natural solutions for high blood but no one tells you how to switch or what works best. Need more naturopathic doctors especially where I live in southern New Jersey.

I was put on vasotec when I first needed meds for bp. I coughed for 2 years. It was awful. I purchased a sweet little dog about the same time. I thought I had become allergic to him. I found a sweet lady to love him even tho I did love him. Two years later I took my stepson to a Dr for his BP.

The visit he gave us information about different types of BP meds. He mentioned that vasotec made people cough.Bam!! I realized that was the problem. . I had my Dr to change it. He put me on diovan. Later he changed to valsartin. I have not had any side effects with it for 23 years. We all have different chemestries and just keep trying.

I a on Diovan also. I have had a bad cough and phlegm. I also just started having incontinence right before I get up in the morning. I think these are all side effects of Diovan. The lady in a comment above is correct in trying to eat better more fruits and veggies. I ‘m just starting to delete beef in my diet. I feel better after eating fruits, veggies, fish or chicken.

I was on Ramipril and have a cough for 6 months. My doctor said it was fluid running down the back of my throat. I tried another doctor and was taken off Ramipril, and believe me the very next day after ceasing Ramipril the cough disappeared. I am on Diovan now with no cough, but not controlling the blood pressure as well as Ramipril.

I am on Valsartan for just 4 days now. My blood pressure has went down to 95/50, I am dizzy and sleep all the time. I hate this drug, but my Doctor don’t think any thing of it, cause my blood pressure is always around 190/100.

I still cough and my head hurts. I feel like I have the flu all the time, how can this drug be helping when it is making me so sick. I have mitral valve reguration, so I am a little scared.

How do I found out if things are ok, when my doctor don’t do anything?

I was taking Metroprolol for a couple of yrs. and lost almost all sense of taste & smell. Then suddenly my tongue began sticking to the roof of my mouth even while sleeping. Medicaid wouldn’t pay for Benicar which had worked perfectly before Lisnopril (?) & Metro w/o side effects. They said I still had to try something else before I could get PA.

So my dr. prescribed Valsartan. The first day I was dizzy & my heart raced. But I figured it was a new drug so I’d give it a chance. The next day in less than a half an hr. of taking it while just relaxing with a game on the computer my head suddenly felt like it was in vice grips. I hardly ever even have a minor headache. I went to go get my BP cuff & my head started spinning. I held on to the door, dresser, etc. feeling like I was being pushed down to the floor. I finally made it to the BP cuff by the bed. My BP was 98/66 with a heart rate of 95. This was from a completely relaxed state.

I laid in bed for 4 hrs. until my bp went up to 117/75 and pulse 85. There was no way I was going to take anymore. The next morning I woke up the left side of my neck had a rash that went clear to the back & was swollen. Finally after 3 days off the swelling is going down enough to see the rash better. Even though I went back to the 1/2 tab of Metro I was taking when converting to valsartan my resting bp is 166/87 with a pulse of 76. The resting bp now is higher than my normal bp was before being put on meds. I was only prehypertensive then.

It makes me feel like they’ll only approve something that works if you survive all those that don’t. My neighbor has the same insurance & she’s had benicar from the beginning w/o being used as a guinea pig for all these other meds. I’m 60 yrs. old & this is only the second time in my life I’ve ever been allergic to meds. But it’s scaring me to death.

I have been taking Diovan since 2001. No cough, but I do know that’s a possible side effect. In 2013, my medicine provider switched from Diovan to Valsartan. Since that time I have had a nagging cough brought on by a pool of phlegm that sits at the back of my throat. The cough lasts 10 weeks then goes away for a few months, then it returns for another 10 weeks. Nothing seems to help. Chest x-rays show clear lungs. My ENT shrugs, gives me allergy shots and an inhaler. I am still coughing – and wondering if the medicine is the cause. Suggestions? Thoughts?

Yes I too have a cough and phlegm

I am taking Diovan HTC 320/25 I have some heart palpitations, extreme tiredness and many times it effects my memory. It also does not control my blood pressure that much. I need to find an all natural medicine that will control my BP without all these side effects. If anyone knows of one that is effective without all these major side effects please let me know.

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