Salt In Medicine

High salt levels in common medicines put patients at increased risk of cardiovascular events


Millions of patients taking effervescent, dispersible and soluble medicines containing sodium are at greater risk of cardiovascular events compared with patients taking non-effervescent, dispersible and soluble versions of the same drugs, finds a study published on
Researchers at the University of Dundee and University College London found that taking the maximum daily dose of some medicines would exceed the recommended daily limits for sodium, without any additional dietary intake.
Numerous studies have shown that excess salt is harmful to heart health. Many commonly prescribed medicines have sodium added to improve their absorption into the body, but the effect of this is unknown.
The team, led by Dr Jacob George, Senior Clinical Lecturer and Honorary Consultant in Clinical Pharmacology at the University of Dundee, compared the risk of cardiovascular events (non-fatal heart attack, non-fatal stoke, or vascular death) in patients taking sodium-containing effervescent, dispersible and soluble medications with those taking non-sodium versions of the same drugs between 1987 and 2010.
Over 1.2 million UK patients were tracked for an average of just over seven years. During this time, over 61,000 incident cardiovascular events occurred.
Overall, the researchers found that patients taking the sodium-containing effervescent, dispersible and soluble medications had a 16% increased risk of a heart attack, stroke or vascular death compared with other patients taking the non-sodium versions of those exact medications .
Patients taking the sodium-containing drugs were also seven times more likely to develop high blood pressure and overall death rates were also 28% higher in this group. These events are largely driven by an increased risk of hypertension and stroke.

On behalf of Blood Pressure UK, Professor Gareth Beevers says:

“We are working, successfully to reduce sodium from common table salt (sodium chloride) in processed foods, it is extraordinary to think that sodium has been hiding in our medicines all this time.  Without clear labelling on these products, it is impossible to know how much additional sodium you would be eating, so it is shocking to find you could be having more than your daily maximum from medicines alone.

“Eating too much sodium – in any form – puts up our blood pressure which puts you at increased risk of strokes and heart attacks, the biggest killers in the world.”

For the full article in the British Medical Journal:

For the coverage on the BBC: