Ace Inhibitors (angiotensin-converting enzyme) is a drug used to treat high blood pressure, heart failure and prevent strokes and kidney damage in people with hypertension or diabetes. Popular brands of ACE Inhibitors include Capoten, Vasotec, Monopril, Prinivil, Zestric, Univasc, Acgon, Accupril, Altace and Mavik.
The drug works by forcing smooth muscles along blood vessels to relax, causing blood vessels to widen. It also prevents the production of angiotensin II, a substance that is known to cause the narrowing of blood vessels.
In 2011 alone, there were more than 162 million prescriptions for ACE Inhibitors.
In 1982, the side effect Angioedema was recognized and added to prescription information. Angioedema is a serious side effect that occurs when there is swelling in the mouth or throat, which causes a blockage of the patient’s airway—causing death by suffocation.
Many doctors believe that while there is a warning about Angioedema on the packaging for ACE Inhibitors, the FDA should highlight the risk more clearly with a black box warning, the FDA’s strongest safety notice.
A study conducted from 2000 to 2009 revealed that hospitalizations for swelling due to ACE Inhibitors nearly doubled from 3.4 to 5.4 people per 100,000. The statistics more than doubled in African Americans, who made up 37 percent of hospital admissions, from 8.9 people per 100,000 to 18 per 100,000. Eight percent of those people required intubation, while .4 percent died.
ACE Inhibitors have also been linked to serious birth defects when used by pregnant women. The drug has been linked to the malformation of a child’s heart and brain, and some fetuses died in the womb.
People with Bilateral Renal Artery Stenosis have also experienced worsening of kidney function after using an ACE inhibitor.
Side effects may include:
- Elevated Blood Potassium levels
- Low Blood Pressure
- Abnormal Taste (metallic or salty)
More serious side effects may include:
- Hyperkalemia — toxic high levels of potassium in the blood stream, which causes irregular heartbeat and even death
- Kidney Failure
- Allergic Reactions
- Decrease in White Blood Cells
- Heart Attacks
- Birth defects if taken while pregnant