Irbesartan is a medicine widely used to treat high blood pressure.
This medicine is only available on prescription. It comes as tablets.
NHS coronavirus advice
If you have coronavirus, or think you might have it, keep taking your blood pressure medicines as usual.
There is no clear evidence that taking angiotensin receptor blockers (ARBs) like irbesartan will cause complications.
Updated: 17 March 2020
- Irbesartan lowers your blood pressure and makes it easier for your heart to pump blood around your body.
- It's often used as a second-choice treatment if you had to stop taking a similar medicine because it gave you a dry, irritating cough.
- The main side effects of irbesartan are dizziness, headache, feeling or being sick (nausea or vomiting) and low blood pressure - but they're usually mild and short-lived.
- If you get severe diarrhoea or vomiting from a stomach bug or illness, tell your doctor. You may need to stop taking irbesartan for a while until you feel better.
- Irbesartan is not normally recommended in pregnancy. Talk to your doctor if you're trying to get pregnant or you're already pregnant.
- Irbesartan is also called by the brand name Aprovel.
Who can and cannot take irbesartan
Irbesartan can be taken by adults aged 18 and over.
Your doctor may prescribe irbesartan if you've tried taking blood pressure-lowering medicines called angiotensin converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors, such as ramipril and lisinopril, in the past but had to stop taking them because of side effects such as a dry, irritating cough.
Irbesartan isn't suitable for some people.
To make sure irbesartan is safe for you, tell your doctor if you:
- have had an allergic reaction to irbesartan or any other medicines in the past
- have diabetes
- have heart or kidney problems
- have recently had a kidney transplant
- have diarrhoea or vomiting - or have recently had this
- are on a low salt diet
- have low blood pressure
- are trying to get pregnant, are already pregnant or you are breastfeeding
How and when to take it
Take irbesartan tablets once a day.
Your doctor may suggest that you take your first dose before bedtime, because it can make you dizzy. After the very first dose, you can take irbesartan at any time of day. Try to take it at the same time every day.
You can take irbesartan tablets with or without food. Swallow the tablets whole with a drink of water.
How much will I take?
The dose of irbesartan you take depends on why you need the medicine. Take it as instructed by your doctor.
The usual dose is 150mg to 300mg once a day.
If you are over 75, or you have liver or kidney problems, your dose may be lower.
Will my dose go up or down?
After a few weeks your doctor will check your blood pressure and ask you if you're getting any side effects. You may also have blood tests to check how well your kidneys are working and the amount of potassium in your blood. Your doctor will then decide whether to change your dose of irbesartan.
If irbesartan doesn't get your blood pressure down, your doctor may want to increase the dose. If your blood pressure gets too low or you get side effects, your doctor may want to lower your irbesartan dose.
Take irbesartan even if you feel well, as you will still be getting the benefits of the medicine.
What if I get sick while I'm taking it?
If you get severe diarrhoea or vomiting for any reason, contact your doctor or a pharmacist. They’ll be able to advise you about what to do.
They may recommend that you stop taking irbesartan until you’re better, and you’re able to eat and drink normally again.
What if I forget to take it?
If you miss a dose of irbesartan, take it as soon as you remember. Do not take a double dose to make up for a forgotten one.
If you often forget doses, it may help to set an alarm to remind you. You could also ask your pharmacist for advice on other ways to help you remember to take your medicine.
What if I take too much?
If you take too many irbesartan tablets by accident, contact your doctor or go to your nearest hospital straight away. An overdose of irbesartan can cause low blood pressure and changes in heart rate.
The amount of irbesartan that can lead to an overdose varies from person to person.
Like all medicines, irbesartan can cause side effects although not everyone gets them. Side effects often improve as your body gets used to the medicine.
Common side effects
These common side effects happen in more than 1 in 100 people:
- feeling dizzy or having a spinning sensation (vertigo)
- feeling sick (nausea)
- being sick (vomiting) or diarrhoea
- pain in your joints or muscles
Talk to your doctor or pharmacist if these side effects bother you or don't go away.
Serious side effects
It happens rarely, but some people have serious side effects after taking irbesartan.
Call a doctor straight away if you have:
- yellow skin or the whites of your eyes turn yellow - this can be a sign of liver problems
- pale skin, feeling tired, faint or dizzy, purple spots, any sign of bleeding, sore throat and fever - these can be signs of blood or bone marrow disorder
- weakness, an irregular heartbeat, pins and needles and muscle cramps - these can be signs of changes in the sodium and potassium levels in your blood
Serious allergic reaction
In rare cases, irbesartan may cause a serious allergic reaction (anaphylaxis).
These are not all the side effects of irbesartan. For a full list, see the leaflet inside your medicines packet.
How to cope with side effects
What to do about:
- feeling dizzy - if irbesartan makes you feel dizzy when you stand up, try getting up very slowly or stay sitting down until you feel better. If you begin to feel dizzy, lie down so that you don't faint, then sit until you feel better. Do not drive or use tools or machines if you feel dizzy, have muscle cramps or muscle pain, or if you just feel a bit shaky.
- headaches - make sure you rest and drink plenty of fluids. Do not drink too much alcohol. Ask your pharmacist to recommend a painkiller. Headaches should usually go away after the first week of taking irbesartan. Talk to your doctor if they last longer than a week or are severe.
- feeling sick (nausea) - try taking your tablets with or after a meal or snack. It may also help if you don't eat rich or spicy food.
- being sick (vomiting) or diarrhoea - drink plenty of water to prevent dehydration. If you're being sick, try small, frequent sips. Speak to a pharmacist if you have signs of dehydration, such as peeing less than usual or having dark, strong-smelling pee. If you get severe diarrhoea or vomiting from a stomach bug or illness, tell your doctor. You may need to stop taking irbesartan for a while until you feel better.
- pain in your joints or muscles - if you get unusual muscle pain, weakness or tiredness which isn't from exercise or hard work, talk to your doctor. You may need a blood test to check what might be causing it.
Pregnancy and breastfeeding
Irbesartan is not normally recommended in pregnancy or when breastfeeding. However, your doctor may prescribe it if they think the benefits of the medicine outweigh the risks.
If you're trying to get pregnant or you're already pregnant, talk to your doctor about the benefits and possible harms of taking irbesartan. These will depend on how many weeks pregnant you are and the reason you need to take it. There may be other treatments that are safer for you.
For more information about how irbesartan can affect you and your baby during pregnancy, visit the Best Use of Medicines in Pregnancy (BUMPS) website.
Irbesartan and breastfeeding
Small amounts of irbesartan may get into breast milk. This can cause low blood pressure in the baby. Talk to your doctor, as other medicines might be better while you are breastfeeding.
Cautions with other medicines
Some medicines interfere with the way irbesartan works.
Tell your doctor if you're taking:
- other medicines to help lower your blood pressure, including aliskiren, enalapril, captopril, lisinopril or ramipril
- painkillers such as ibuprofen, naproxen, diclofenac, celecoxib or etoricoxib
- aspirin (if you're taking more than 3g a day)
- potassium supplements or salt substitutes which contain potassium
- heparin (a medicine for thinning the blood)
- medicines which make you pee more (diuretics)
- lithium (a medicine for mental health problems)
- spironolactone (a medicine to treat heart failure)
Mixing irbesartan with herbal remedies or supplements
There's very little information about taking herbal remedies and supplements with irbesartan.
For safety, speak to your pharmacist or doctor before taking any herbal or alternative remedies with irbesartan.
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