1. About olmesartan
Olmesartan is a medicine 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 olmesartan will cause complications.
Updated: 17 March 2020
2. Key facts
- Olmesartan lowers your blood pressure and makes it easier for your heart to pump blood around your body.
- It's often used as an alternative treatment if you have had to stop taking a similar medicine because it gave you a dry, irritating cough.
- The main side effects of olmesartan are dizziness, headaches and flu-like symptoms, but they're usually mild and short-lived.
- If you're being sick (vomiting) or have severe diarrhoea because of a stomach bug or illness while taking olmesartan, tell your doctor. You may need to stop taking it until you feel better.
- Olmesartan isn't normally recommended in pregnancy or while breastfeeding. Talk to your doctor if you're trying to get pregnant, are already pregnant or you're breastfeeding.
- Olmesartan is also called by the brand name Olmetec.
3. Who can and can't take olmesartan
Olmesartan can be taken by adults, and by children aged 6 years and over.
Your doctor may prescribe olmesartan if you have tried taking blood pressure-lowering medicines called angiotensin converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors, such as ramipril and lisinopril, but had to stop taking them because of side effects such as a dry cough.
Olmesartan isn't suitable for some people.
To make sure olmesartan is safe for you, tell your doctor if you:
- have had an allergic reaction to olmesartan or any other medicines in the past
- have problems with your bile ducts or gallbladder, such as blocked bile ducts or gallstones
- have diabetes
- have heart, liver or kidney problems, or have recently had a kidney transplant
- have severe diarrhoea or vomiting or have recently had this
- are on (or have recently been on) a low-salt diet
- have low blood pressure
- are trying to get pregnant, are already pregnant or you're breastfeeding
4. How and when to take it
Take olmesartan tablets once a day.
Your doctor may suggest that you take your first dose before bedtime, as it can make you dizzy.
After the very first dose you can take olmesartan at any time of day.
Usually people take olmesartan in the morning, but it doesn't really matter. Just try to take it at the same time every day.
You can take olmesartan tablets with or without food.
Swallow the tablets whole with a drink of water. Do not crush or chew the tablets.
Speak to a pharmacist if you or your child have difficulty swallowing tablets.
How much will I take?
Always take olmesartan as instructed by your doctor.
For adults and children aged 6 years and over, the usual dose is 10mg taken once a day to start with.
Your dose may eventually go up to 20mg or 40mg, taken once a day.
Children weighing less than 35kg (about 5.5 stone) should not take more than 20mg daily.
Your child's doctor will calculate the right dose based on how much they weigh.
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 olmesartan.
If olmesartan doesn't bring 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 dose.
Take olmesartan even if you feel well, as you'll 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 olmesartan until you're better and able to eat and drink normally again.
What if I forget to take it?
If you miss a dose of olmesartan, take it as soon as you remember if it's on the same day.
If you don't remember until the next day, skip the forgotten dose and take your next dose at the usual time.
Do not take a double dose to make up for a forgotten one.
If you forget doses often, 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?
An overdose of olmesartan can cause low blood pressure and dizziness.
The amount of olmesartan that can lead to an overdose varies from person to person.
Urgent advice: Call your doctor or go to A&E as soon as possible if you take too many olmesartan tablets
If you need to go to A&E, do not drive yourself - get someone else to drive you or call for an ambulance.
Take the olmesartan packet or leaflet inside it, plus any remaining medicine, with you.
5. Side effects
Like all medicines, olmesartan 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
- headache or flu-like symptoms, or pain in your back, bones or joints
- feeling sick (nausea), stomach ache or indigestion
- swollen feet, ankles or legs
- urinary tract infection (UTI)
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 olmesartan.
Call a doctor straight away if you have:
- blood in your pee
- itching, a rash or lumps on your skin, or tiny red spots under the skin
- severe diarrhoea that doesn't go away and causes noticeable weight loss
- cuts that won't stop bleeding, unexplained bruising, bleeding gums, nosebleeds or unusually heavy periods
- weak muscles, numbness or tingling, an irregular heartbeat or palpitations, and feeling sick and short of breath - these can be signs of high levels of potassium in your blood
Serious allergic reaction
In rare cases, olmesartan may cause a serious allergic reaction (anaphylaxis).
Immediate action required: Call 999 or go to A&E if:
- you get a skin rash that may include itchy, red, swollen, blistered or peeling skin
- you're wheezing
- you get tightness in the chest or throat
- you have trouble breathing or talking
- your mouth, face, lips, tongue or throat start swelling
You could be having a serious allergic reaction and may need immediate treatment in hospital.
These are not all the side effects of olmesartan.
For a full list, see the leaflet inside your medicines packet.
You can report any suspected side effect to the UK safety scheme.
6. How to cope with side effects
What to do about:
- feeling dizzy - if olmesartan 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 you don't faint, then sit until you feel better. Do not drive or use tools or machines if you feel dizzy.
- headache or flu-like symptoms, or pain in your back, bones or joints - make sure you rest and drink plenty of fluids. Take paracetamol if you need to, or ask your pharmacist to recommend a painkiller. Talk to your doctor if these side effects last longer than a week or are severe.
- feeling sick (nausea), stomach ache or indigestion - try taking your tablets with or after a meal or snack. It may also help if you don't eat rich or spicy food. Talk to a pharmacist before taking indigestion remedies like antacids, as some of them can stop olmesartan working properly.
- diarrhoea - drink plenty of water to prevent dehydration. 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 olmesartan for a while until you feel better.
- swollen feet, ankles or legs - raise your legs when you're sitting down
- urinary tract infection (UTI) - talk to your pharmacist or doctor if you have symptoms of a UTI. These include needing to pee suddenly or more often, pain when peeing, smelly or cloudy pee, or pain in your lower belly. Drink plenty of water and take paracetamol to ease the pain if you need to. Ask for an urgent doctor's appointment if you also have pain in your sides or lower back, have a very high temperature or feel hot and shivery, have diarrhoea, or are feeling or being sick.
7. Pregnancy and breastfeeding
Olmesartan isn't normally recommended in pregnancy or when breastfeeding.
But your doctor may prescribe it if they think the benefits of the medicine outweigh the risks.
If you're trying to get pregnant or already pregnant, talk to your doctor about the benefits and possible harms of taking olmesartan. Other treatments may be safer for you and your baby.
For more information about how olmesartan can affect you and your baby during pregnancy, read this leaflet on the Best Use of Medicines in Pregnancy (BUMPS) website.
Olmesartan and breastfeeding
It's not known whether olmesartan gets into breast milk.
Talk to your doctor, as other medicines may be better when breastfeeding.
Non-urgent advice: Tell your doctor if you're:
- trying to get pregnant
8. Cautions with other medicines
There are some medicines that don't mix well with olmesartan.
Before starting olmesartan, tell your doctor if you're taking:
- other medicines to help lower your blood pressure, especially aliskiren or an ACE inhibitor, such as enalapril, captopril, lisinopril, ramipril
- anti-inflammatories, such as ibuprofen, naproxen or diclofenac
- aspirin (if you're taking more than 3g a day)
- tablets to make you pee more (diuretics)
- arthritis medicines, such as celecoxib or etoricoxib
- lithium, a medicine for mental health problems
- potassium supplements or salt substitutes containing potassium
- heparin, a medicine for thinning the blood
- spironolactone, a medicine to treat heart failure
- colesevelam, a medicine for lowering cholesterol
Mixing olmesartan with herbal remedies or supplements
There's very little information about taking herbal remedies and supplements with olmesartan.
For safety, speak to your pharmacist or doctor before taking any herbal or alternative remedies with olmesartan.
Tell your doctor or pharmacist if you're taking any other medicines, including herbal remedies, vitamins or supplements.
9. Common questions
How does olmesartan work?
How long does olmesartan take to work?
How long will I have to take it for?
Is olmesartan safe to take for a long time?
What will happen if I stop taking it?
Can I come off olmesartan now my blood pressure is lower?
Can I drink alcohol with olmesartan?
Is there any food or drink I need to avoid?
Are there similar medicines to olmesartan?
How is it different from other medicines for high blood pressure?
Can I take olmesartan before surgery?
Can I take olmesartan for migraines?
Can olmesartan protect against Alzheimer's disease?
Is olmesartan addictive?
Will it affect my sex life?
Will it affect my fertility?
Will it affect my contraception?
Can I drive or ride a bike?
Can lifestyle changes help?
Page last reviewed: 07/01/2019
Next review due: 07/01/2022