Angiotensin II Receptor Blockers (ARBs) are drugs most often prescribed for people who experience side effects with ACE inhibitors. They are used to treat high blood pressure and heart failure. Rather than lowering levels of angiotensin II (as ACE inhibitors do), angiotensin II receptor blockers prevent this chemical from having any effects on the heart and blood vessels. The blood vessels are relaxed, which increases the supply of blood and oxygen to the heart muscle. The blood pressure is also reduced. (Also known as Angiotensin-2 Receptor Antagonists).

Side effects of ARBs:

ARBs are well tolerated by most individuals. The most common side effects are cough, elevated potassium levels in the blood (hyperkalemia), low blood pressure, dizziness, headache, drowsiness, diarrhea, abnormal taste sensation (metallic or salty taste), and rash. Compared to ACE inhibitors, cough occurs less often with ARBs. The most serious, but rare, side effects are kidney failure, liver failure, allergic reactions, a decrease in white blood cells, and swelling of tissues (angioedema). ARBs usually are not prescribed for pregnant patients because they may cause birth defects. Individuals who have narrowing of both kidney arteries or have had a severe reaction to ARBs should avoid them. Like other antihypertensives, ARBs have been associated with sexual dysfunction.

Some noted possible side effects of Angiotensin II receptor blockers:

  • May cause occasional dizziness.
  • ARBs should not be used during pregnancy. Medications that act directly on the renin-angiotensin system can cause injury or even death to a developing fetus. When pregnancy is detected, consult your healthcare professional as soon as possible.

Currently available ARBs:

  • candesartan (Atacand),
  • eprosartan (Teveten),
  • irbesartan (Avapro),
  • telmisartan (Micardis),
  • valsartan (Diovan),
  • losartan (Cozaar), and
  • olmesartan (Benicar).