The Possible Dangers of Sodium in Pills

Sodium containing medicines linked to cardiovascular events

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Robert Carlson, M.D Beth Bolt, RPh

(RxWiki News) Hamburgers, potato chips and some prescription medications — what could all of these things have in common? Their sodium content may be putting people at risk for heart problems.

A recent study looked at medications that contain sodium to see if they increase the risk of heart attack, stroke or other cardiovascular problems.

The researchers found that patients taking sodium-containing tablets were more likely to have a heart health event. They also were more than seven times more likely to have high blood pressure.

The authors of this study suggested that doctors closely monitor for high blood pressure in patients taking sodium-containing medication.

"Ask your pharmacist about the possible risks of your medication."

Dr. Jacob George, of the Division of Medical Science at Ninewells Hospital and Medical School, led this study on medications that contain sodium.

Eating too much sodium or salt can increase the risk of a heart or vein health problem.

Generally, sodium reduction efforts focus on decreasing consumption of processed, salty foods. However, some medications also contain sodium.

According to the authors of this study, pharmaceutical companies are not required to label medications with the amount of sodium the medication contains.

This study attempted to determine whether patients taking medications with sodium were more likely to have a heart health problem like a heart attack, a stroke or death.

Dr. George and colleagues identified 24 medications that contained sodium and 116 comparable medicines that did not have sodium. Most of the high sodium medicines were effervescent, or fizzy in water ones.

These researchers used the UK Clinical Practice Research Datalink database, which contains anonymous medical records from over 500 primary care practices.

The study population included all adult UK residents who received at least two prescriptions of sodium-containing medications or a non-sodium version of the same medication from January 1987 to December 2010.

In total, 1,292,337 patients were included in this study.

The researchers followed up with the participants and took information about their health statuses until December 2010 for an average follow-up time of 7.23 years.

During the follow-up period, 61,072 heart health events occurred. The average time from the first prescription to the first occurrence of a non-fatal heart attack, non-fatal stroke or heart health-related death was 3.92 years.

The researchers found that patients who were taking the sodium-rich medication formulations were 1.14 times more likely to have a heart health event.

Additionally, the patients taking medications with sodium were 7.18 times more likely to have high blood pressure, a condition that increases the risk for stroke, heart attack and kidney disease.

These researchers concluded that physicians should prescribe sodium-containing medications with caution and monitor those patients for high blood pressure.

This research was published in BMJ on November 26.

This study was funded by TENOVUS Scotland. The authors declared no conflicts of interest.

Review Date: 
November 25, 2013
Last Updated:
November 26, 2013