Question: What are the benefits and side effects of an ARB?
Answer: The class of drugs called the angiotensin receptor blockers not only lower high blood pressure, but also reduce disease progression in patients with systolic heart failure. Thus they have been shown to improve the pumping capacity of the heart. They have been shown to reduce the transition from stable to unstable heart failure -- that is they reduce the rate of heart failure hospitalizations. In some instances, they have been known to reduce cardiovascular events and even point to a survival benefit.
We tend to use these agents in heart failure as a second choice when ACE inhibitor therapy or beta blocker therapy cannot be employed in concert.
As with any medical drug, there are side effects to these agents. And in fact, although the angiotensin receptor blockers as a class are one of the best tolerated drugs, there are side effects including low blood pressure or hypertension, where patients who are dehydrated may experience dizziness. There are situations in patients with kidney dysfunctions where these agents could worsen the risk of high potassium levels in blood for instance.