What is Zantac?
Zantac is a brand-name ranitidine product, taken in pill, capsule or syrup form. The drug was used to treat stomach and intestinal problems, including ulcers, gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) and heartburn for decades. Zantac / ranitidine is a type of antihistamine. It worked by blocking the production of stomach acid.
The drug was available by prescription and over the counter until April of 2020, when the federal Food & Drug Administration (FDA) requested the withdrawal of all forms of ranitidine.
Why was Zantac Withdrawn from the Market?
Ranitidine products were withdrawn because many were contaminated with a cancer-causing agent called NDMA (N-Nitrosodimethylamine).
A company called Valisure first told the FDA about the high levels of NDMA in Zantac / ranitidine in June of 2019. The company screens prescription drugs to make sure they are correctly formulated, and noticed excessive levels of NDMA in ranitidine from several different samples.
However, some lawsuits claim manufacturers of the drug knew about the NDMA and the cancer risk, but didn’t warn people taking ranitidine or their doctors.
NDMA is considered “reasonably safe” for humans in very small quantities–up to .096 micrograms/day. Valisure’s testing showed some samples contained 3,000 times that amount. Another private company, Emery Pharma, conducted testing on certain ranitidine products and determined that the level of NDMA could more than triple in just two weeks at 70 degree temperatures. Even short-term exposure to heat, such as the drug being left briefly in a hot car, could accelerate the increase in NDMA levels.
The FDA’s testing confirmed higher-than-acceptable levels of NDMA in Zantac and ranitidine drugs produced by several manufacturers, though they weren’t as high as the levels Valisure reported. The FDA also concluded that the amount of NDMA in the drug could increase over time or when the medication was stored at above room temperature. So, on April 1, 2020, the FDA requested that manufacturers withdraw all ranitidine drugs from the market.
Ranitidine products were also recalled or banned in dozens of other countries.
How Did the NDMA Get in Zantac / Ranitidine?
News releases described Zantac and other ranitidine drugs as being “contaminated” with NDMA, but that language is a little misleading. It’s not unusual to hear that a batch of a certain food or other product has been recalled because it was contaminated with something that doesn’t belong in it. But, the NDMA contamination in ranitidine was different. It didn’t come from something accidentally getting into the drug.
Instead, the instability of the drug allowed NDMA to form, even after the drug was manufactured, packaged, and shipped. That meant that even if the product tested at safe levels before it left the manufacturer, it could contain dangerous levels of NDMA by the time a consumer swallowed the pill. Later testing suggested that NDMA levels could continue to increase in the digestive system.
How Many People Took Ranitidine?
Zantac / ranitidine was a popular drug for gastrointestinal disorders, including common heartburn. IN 2019 alone, medical professionals wrote more than 13 million prescriptions for Zantac and other forms of ranitidine. The drug was also available over the counter.
25 years ago, an article published in the Journal of Healthcare Marketing described Zantac as “the best selling drug in history,” after U.S. sales reached $1 billion, and the drug’s popularity remained strong until 2020.
Why Do I Still See Zantac at the Pharmacy?
In 2021, a new Zantac product, Zantac360, was introduced to the market. The drug treats the same conditions as the original Zantac, but does not contain ranitidine.
What Types of Cancer are Associated with Zantac / Ranitidine?
NDMA has been linked to increased risk for several different types of cancer, including:
- Bladder cancer
- Breast cancer
- Colorectal cancer (not anal)
- Intestinal cancer
- Esophageal cancer (not throat)
- Gastric / Stomach cancer
- Kidney cancer
- Liver cancer
- Lung cancer in non-smokers
- Pancreatic cancer
- Prostate cancer with onset at age 69 or younger
This list may not be complete. If you were diagnosed with cancer after taking Zantac or another ranitidine-based drug, it’s in your best interest to consult an attorney for more information.
Zantac / Ranitidine Litigation
People who were diagnosed with cancer after taking Zantac / ranitidine and surviving family members have filed thousands of lawsuits in state and federal courts around the country. All of the federal court cases have been consolidated into multi-district litigation (MDL) in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida. The federal MDL currently includes several hundred cases.
Some states where a large number of ranitidine cancer cases have been filed have also consolidated their cases, through a process similar to multi-district litigation. For instance, California created a Judicial Council Coordinated Process (JCCP) in June with dozens of Zantac cases involving more than 1,000 plaintiffs. That number grows as new cases are filed in California state courts.
What is Multi-district Litigation (MDL)?
In MDL, a large number of cases involving the same basic issues and against a common pool of defendants are grouped together in one court. This allows the cases to be managed more efficiently, and is organized in a way that makes it easier for the parties to gain an understanding of how courts will rule on certain issues and how juries will respond to the claims. This process can facilitate settlement of many cases, saving time and money for both parties and reducing the strain on the court system.
Any additional Zantac cancer cases filed in federal court anywhere in the country will be consolidated into this MDL in Florida.
What Should I Do if I Got Cancer after Taking Zantac?
If you were diagnosed with cancer after taking Zantac or lost a loved one to cancer after he or she took ranitidine, it’s time to learn more about your rights and explore your options. Action Matters makes that easy.
Just fill out the form on this page right now.
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