Angiotensin II Receptor Blockers (ARBs) for High Blood Pressure

Looks at ARB medicines used to treat high blood pressure. Lists generic and brand names such as candesartan (Atacand) and irbesartan (Avapro). Covers how well they work and possible side effects. Warns against pregnant women taking ARBs.

Angiotensin II Receptor Blockers (ARBs) for High Blood Pressure


Generic Name Brand Name
candesartan Atacand
eprosartan Teveten
irbesartan Avapro
losartan Cozaar, Hyzaar
olmesartan Benicar
telmisartan Micardis
valsartan Diovan

How It Works

These medicines block the action of a
hormone that causes blood vessels to narrow. As a
result, blood vessels may relax and open up. This makes it easier for blood to
flow through the vessels, which reduces blood pressure. Also, these drugs
increase the release of sodium and water into the urine, which also lowers
blood pressure.

Why It Is Used

Angiotensin II receptor blockers
(ARBs) may be used alone or combined with other medicine—often a diuretic—to
high blood pressure.

ARBs may be used by
people who cannot take ACE inhibitor medicines. ACE inhibitors can cause an
annoying cough. This cough may be hard for some people to live with. So doctors
may prescribe an ARB instead. ARBs are less likely to cause a cough.

ARBs are also used by people have heart problems such as coronary artery disease or heart failure. ARBs might be used by people who have type 2 diabetes and have early signs of kidney disease or who have kidney disease from diabetes (diabetic nephropathy).

How Well It Works

Angiotensin II receptor blockers
(ARBs) lower blood pressure and help prevent a heart attack or stroke. ARBs work as well as angiotensin-converting enzyme
(ACE) inhibitors but are less likely to cause the cough that is associated with
ACE inhibitors.footnote 1

If you are taking an ARB because you have diabetes and early signs of kidney problems, or because you have kidney disease, these medicines can slow or prevent further damage to your kidneys.footnote 1

Side Effects

All medicines have side effects. But many people don’t feel the side effects, or they are able to deal with them. Ask your pharmacist about the side effects of each medicine you take. Side effects are also listed in the information that comes with your medicine.

Here are some important things to think about:

  • Usually the benefits of the medicine are more important than any minor side effects.
  • Side effects may go away after you take the medicine for a while.
  • If side effects still bother you and you wonder if you should keep taking the medicine, call your doctor. He or she may be able to lower your dose or change your medicine. Do not suddenly quit taking your medicine unless your doctor tells you to.

Call 911 or other emergency services right away if you have:

  • Trouble breathing.
  • Swelling of your face, lips, tongue, or throat.

Call your doctor if you have:

  • Hives.

Common side effects of this medicine include:

  • Dizziness or lightheadedness.
  • Sinus problems, such as a stuffy nose or a runny nose.
  • Stomach problems.

See Drug Reference for a full list of side effects. (Drug
Reference is not available in all systems.)

What To Think About

Tell your doctor about all of the other medicines that you take, including prescription and over-the-counter medicines. ARBs may interact with other medicines such as
NSAID pain relievers (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs),
antacids, potassium supplements, certain diuretics, and lithium. If you are
taking one of these medicines, talk with your doctor before taking an

For tips on taking blood pressure medicine, see:

High Blood Pressure: Taking Medicines Properly.

Taking medicine

Medicine is one of the many tools your doctor has to treat a health problem. Taking medicine as your doctor suggests will improve your health and may prevent future problems. If you don’t take your medicines properly, you may be putting your health (and perhaps your life) at risk.

There are many reasons why people have trouble taking their medicine. But in most cases, there is something you can do. For suggestions on how to work around common problems, see the topic Taking Medicines as Prescribed.

Advice for women

Do not use this medicine if you are pregnant or planning to get pregnant. If you need to use this medicine, talk to your doctor about how you can prevent pregnancy.


You may have regular blood tests to monitor how the medicine is working in your body. Your doctor will likely let you know when you need to have the tests.

Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor if you are having problems. It’s also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.

Complete the new medication information form (PDF) ( What is a PDF document? ) to help you understand this medication.



  1. Drugs for hypertension (2012). Treatment Guidelines From The Medical Letter, 10(113): 1–10.


ByHealthwise StaffPrimary Medical Reviewer E. Gregory Thompson, MD – Internal Medicine Specialist Medical Reviewer Robert A. Kloner, MD, PhD – Cardiology

Current as ofOctober 5, 2017