Medical Malpractice and Personal Injury Law Blog

Zantac: When a Common Drug for Heartburn Causes Cancer

Posted by Briggs Bedigian | Feb 18, 2020 | 0 Comments

For those of you who suffer from heartburn, Zantac may be a familiar name. Zantac, the brand name for ranitidine, is a common medication for heartburn. The drug helps decrease stomach acid by blocking histamine receptors in the stomach, and as such is also known as an H2 blocker or H2 antagonist. It is also used to treat:

  • ulcers of the stomach and intestines;
  • indigestion;
  • erosive esophagitis, gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD);
  • Zollinger-Ellison syndrome; and
  • other stomach and throat conditions.

The drug is available with or without a prescription – so it's pretty accessible by just about anyone. The problem is this: it's now been linked to cancer. Here's what you should know if you have used Zantac in the past and have now been diagnosed with cancer.

Has Zantac been linked to cancer?

Zantac has recently been linked to cancer. In a 2019 petition filed with the Food & Drug Administration (FDA), claims were made that Zantac exposed patients to high levels of N-nitrosodimethylamine (NDMA). Voluntary recalls started soon thereafter with two new recalls of generic brands occurring at the beginning of January 2020:

  1. Appco Pharma LLC recalled its prescription ranitidine hydrochloride capsules; and
  2. Northwind Pharmaceuticals recalled its prescription ranitidine tablets (150 mg and 300 mg) that are manufactured by Glenmark Pharmaceutical Inc.

Currently, the FDA is advising companies to recall their ranitidine products if tests indicate levels of NDMA are above acceptable daily intake levels. Acceptable daily intake levels are either:

  • 96 nanograms per day; or
  • 0.32 parts per million for ranitidine.

NDMA is the link between ranitidine and cancer. NDMA is an environmental contaminant found in water and foods – like dairy, vegetables, and grilled meats. It has been classified as a probable carcinogen by many agencies. For example, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) states that

NDMA is a semivolatile organic chemical that forms in both industrial and natural processes. It is [a] member of N-ni-trosamines, a family of potent carcinogens.

The World Health Organization states that

[t]here is conclusive evidence that NDMA is a potent carcinogen in experimental animals by several routes of exposure, including through ingestion of drinking-water. NDMA has been classified by IARC as probably carcinogenic to humans.

NDMA has been named a carcinogen by the National Toxicology Program and is also listed on California's regularly updated Proposition 65 list, which catalogs carcinogens for consumer awareness.

What Cancers Have Been Linked to Zantac?

A number of cancers have been linked to NDMA exposure. The most common cancers are:

  • stomach cancer
  • small intestine cancer
  • colorectal cancer
  • esophageal cancer
  • liver.

In more limited cases, there has been a connection made between NDMA exposure and the following cancers:

  • early-onset prostate cancer
  • pancreatic cancer
  • leukemia
  • non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma
  • multiple myeloma.

Cancers, however, can be caused by many factors. To be compensated, you will have to prove that your cancer was caused by Zantac or a generic brand of it.

Who Should You Contact about Your Zantac Cancer Concerns?

If you believe Zantac use is the cause of your cancer, you may want to first talk to your doctor about it. You can, however, always contact an attorney who focuses on personal injury, defective medical products, and medical malpractice. An attorney can thoroughly review your case and advise you on your options at no initial cost to you. 

About the Author

Briggs Bedigian

H. Briggs Bedigian (“Briggs”) is a founding partner of Gilman & Bedigian, LLC.  Prior to forming Gilman & Bedigian, LLC, Briggs was a partner at Wais, Vogelstein and Bedigian, LLC, where he was the head of the firm's litigation practice.  Briggs' legal practice is focused on representing clients involved in medical malpractice and catastrophic personal injury cases. 

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