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FDA ALERT [06/2006]:  Blood pressure medicines called angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors (ACE inhibitors) may be associated with increased risk of birth defects if taken during early pregnancy (first three months, or first trimester).

On June 8, 2006, the New England Journal of Medicine published an article reporting a study that showed babies whose mothers had taken an ACE inhibitor during the first three months of pregnancy had an increased risk of birth defects.  The number of birth defects was small, and the study has not been repeated.

Before this study, it was known that ACE inhibitors can harm an unborn baby when taken during the last six months of pregnancy (second and third trimester). 

If you are pregnant or planning to become pregnant and take a blood pressure medicine, talk with your healthcare professional.  High blood pressure is a condition that needs treatment.  Your healthcare professional can advise you on the blood pressure medicine that is best for you and your baby during pregnancy. 


What are ACE inhibitors?

  • ACE inhibitors are used alone or with other medicines to treat high blood pressure in adults.

ACE inhibitors include:  Benazepril (Lotensin), Captopril (Capoten), Enalapril/Enalaprilat (Vasotec oral and injectable), Fosinopril (Monopril), Lisinopril (Zestril and Prinivil), Moexipril (Univasc), Perindopril (Aceon), Quinapril (Accupril), Ramipril (Altace), and Trandolapril (Mavik).

Who Should Not Take ACE inhibitors?

If you are pregnant or planning to become pregnant and take a blood pressure medicine, talk with your healthcare professional. ACE inhibitors can harm or even cause death to an unborn baby (fetus) if taken during the last six months of pregnancy

What are The Risks?

The following are the major potential risks and side
effects of ACE inhibitor therapy. However, this list is not complete.

  • Birth defects or death of an unborn baby. 
  • Kidney problems that include worsening of kidney problems that you already have. Symptoms include a sudden weight gain and swelling of your arms, hands, legs, and feet.

The most common side effects with ACE inhibitors are:

  • Dizziness
  • Dry cough
  • Sore throat

What Should I Tell My Healthcare Professional?

Before you start taking an ACE inhibitor, tell your healthcare professional if you:

  • have had hives or allergic-type reactions after taking another ACE inhibitor
  • have kidney problems
  • are trying to become pregnant, are already pregnant, or are breast-feeding 

If you are already taking an ACE inhibitor, tell your health care professional if you

  • become pregnant.
  • notice swelling of your face, mouth or throat, or have difficulty swallowing or breathing – this could be serious and you should get medical help right away.

Can other Medicines or Food Affect ACE inhibitors?

ACE inhibitors and certain other medicines can interact with each other. Tell your healthcare professional about all the medicines you take including prescription and non-prescription medicines, vitamins, and herbal supplements. 

Know the medicines you take. Keep a list of them with you to show your healthcare professional

To report any serious adverse events associated with the use of this drug, please contact the FDA MedWatch program using the contact information at the bottom of this sheet.


Physicians caring for pregnant women or women who need antihypertensive treatment and who might become pregnant should consider the following information:

  • FDA approved labeling for ACE inhibitor drugsinhibitors recommends discontinuation of the ACE inhibitor as soon as possible if a patient receiving therapy with an ACE inhibitor becomes pregnant.
  • Based on According to a new, observational study, exposure of a fetus during the first trimester of development to ACE inhibitors may place the infant at increased risk for major congenital malformations  In this same study, .

Data Summary

Cooper et al (2006) report that they analyzed data from the Tennessee Medicaid database, identifying infants born between 1985 and 2000, with first trimester fetal exposure to ACE inhibitors, or to other antihypertensive drugs, or no exposure to antihypertensive drugs of any kind.  Other data bases were then checked for major congenital malformations in these infants.  The infants who had been exposed to ACE inhibitors during the first trimester of their development had an increased overall relative risk of major congenital malformations (risk ratio 2.71 with a 95 percent confidence interval range of 1.72 to 4.27), compared to infants with no exposure to antihypertensive drugs in the first trimester.  The article (referenced below) provides a breakdown of types of congenital malformations and other study details.

Potential major congenital defects were identified from birth and death certificates and hospitalizations, and then analyzed by reviewers blinded to maternal prescriptions.  Of the types of defects identified, half were various cardiac septal defects, and the other half included some defects of the central nervous, urologic, or other systems.  The mothers on ACE inhibitors were on average older and more likely to have other chronic conditions than were the mothers not taking any antihypertensive drugs.  The investigators restricted their observations to infants whose mothers met study criteria for no diabetes, though the protocol definition might not have excluded all such patients. The study also found pregnancies with exposure to ACE inhibitors beyond the first trimester.  
ACE inhibitors are already associated with increased risks to the fetus during the second and third trimesters of pregnancy, as the fetal kidneys are developing. Angiotensin II receptors are, however, already present earlier in fetal development so the authors hypothesized that there might be increased risk then as well.  If ACE inhibitors are teratogenic in early pregnancy because of widespread expression of angiotensin II receptors, then angiotensin receptor antagonist drugs might also be teratogenic.   The mechanism whereby the various congenital malformations reported might occur, however, remains unclear.

See William O. Cooper, Sonia Hernandez-Diaz, Patrick G. Arbogast, Judith A. Dudley, Shannon Dyer, Patricia S. Gideon, Kathi Hall, and Wayne A. Ray. "Major congenital malformations after first-trimester exposure to ACE inhibitors." New England Journal of Medicine, volume 354 number 23, pages 2443-2451. June 8, 2006. This study was supported in part by the FDA (FDA 221-02-3003).

ACE inhibitors include Benazepril (Lotensin), Captopril (Capoten), Enalapril/Enalaprilat (Vasotec oral and injectable), Fosinopril (Monopril), Lisinopril (Zestril and Prinivil), Moexipril (Univasc), Perindopril (Aceon), Quinapril (Accupril), Ramipril (Altace), and Trandolapril (Mavik

Date created: June 7, 2006


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