Use of the recalled heartburn drug Zantac and generic ranitidine has been linked to an increased risk of cancer due to exposure to the carcinogenic substance N-nitrosodimethylamine (NDMA). Since Zantac (ranitidine) was introduced to the market in the early 1980s, millions of people have taken the drug to treat or prevent symptoms of heartburn, acid indigestion, gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), and ulcers of the stomach and intestines. Unfortunately, recent testing has shown that Zantac pills may contain unsafe levels of NDMA, which could put users at risk for bladder cancer, stomach cancer, kidney cancer, pancreatic cancer, and other cancers. If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with cancer and you discover the cancer was caused by exposure to NDMA from Zantac or ranitidine, you may be able to pursue compensation from the drug manufacturer for your medical care, lost wages, and other related expenses.
Zantac and Dangerous NDMA Exposure
Zantac (ranitidine) was introduced in 1983 as the first in a new class of drugs known as histamine H2-receptor antagonists, or H2 blockers. For decades, Zantac was marketed as a safe and effective treatment for heartburn, acid reflux, sour stomach, and other conditions caused by excessive acid in the stomach. However, we now know that the side effects of Zantac use may result in an increased risk of cancer due to exposure to the chemical NDMA. NDMA has been classified by the World Health Organization (WHO) as a probable human carcinogen, meaning people exposed to the substance may be more likely to develop cancer, even people who have no family history or genetic markers for cancer.
Cancer Side Effects Linked to Zantac Use
People who took Zantac to treat their heartburn or acid indigestion and subsequently developed cancer report a wide variety of cancers potentially caused by exposure to NDMA. The following are some but not all of the cancers that may qualify for a Zantac lawsuit:
- Bladder cancer
- Stomach cancer
- Colon cancer
- Esophageal cancer
- Liver cancer
- Prostate cancer
- Pancreatic cancer
- Ovarian cancer
- Breast cancer
- Kidney cancer
Link Between Zantac and Cancer
The presence of NDMA in Zantac was first reported by an online pharmacy called Valisure, which began testing its medications for carcinogens after potentially harmful nitrosamine impurities were discovered in the popular blood pressure medications valsartan, irbesartan, and losartan. In June 2019, Valisure reported its initial findings to the FDA, which showed extremely high levels of NDMA in Zantac’s active ingredient, ranitidine. In September 2019, the pharmacy filed a Citizen Petition with the FDA calling for a recall of all products containing ranitidine, citing research indicating that the NDMA found in Zantac was not merely a contaminant introduced during the manufacturing process. Rather, the pharmacy reported that the presence of NDMA in Zantac was due to the “inherent instability” of the ranitidine molecule, which they found could convert to NDMA in storage or in the human body.
In the wake of these findings, retailers like Walgreens and Walmart began pulling prescription and over-the-counter formulations of Zantac off their shelves, while Zantac’s brand-name manufacturer, Sanofi, and generic manufacturers began initiating recalls for the widely used heartburn drug. Additional testing by the FDA found that NDMA levels in ranitidine products may increase over time and when the drugs are stored at higher than room temperatures, possibly resulting in consumer exposure to unacceptable levels of the carcinogen. In a December 2019 letter to the FDA, Congresswoman Rosa L. DeLauro urged the agency to issue a Zantac recall, writing: “Valisure’s data, in combination with four decades of scientific research, strongly suggest that ranitidine is a fundamentally unstable molecule and all products containing this drug have a risk of cancer.” The FDA finally announced in April 2020 that it was requesting the immediate removal of all prescription and over-the-counter ranitidine products (Zantac) from the market.
Lawsuits Allege Cancer from NDMA in Zantac
Once the world’s best-selling drug, every version of Zantac and ranitidine has been removed from the market due to the potential for the medication to increase the risk of cancer in users. Drug injury lawsuits are currently being filed against the makers of brand-name Zantac and generic ranitidine by consumers who have been diagnosed with cancer. The lawsuits allege that the pharmaceutical companies knew or should have known about the dangers of NDMA in their drug products yet failed to properly warn consumers and healthcare providers of the serious and potentially life-threatening risk. The loved ones of patients who have died from bladder cancer, stomach cancer, or other cancers allegedly caused by exposure to NDMA in Zantac are pursuing wrongful death lawsuits against the drug manufacturers, seeking compensation for funeral and burial costs, pain and suffering, and other damages. There are currently more than 550 Zantac and ranitidine cancer lawsuits pending in multidistrict litigation (MDL) in the Southern District of Florida.