Does Zantac Cause Esophageal Cancer? FDA Calls for Action
A woman from Virginia recently filed a lawsuit against the manufacturer of the heartburn drug Zantac, claiming it caused her esophageal cancer. Just over a month after Deborah Haskins filed a claim, the FDA called for the removal of the drug from the market.
Concerns about the likely presence of a carcinogen in the popular drug are not new. However, the backlash against Zantac grew this week when the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) called for manufacturers to pull all prescription and over-the-counter Zantac immediately.
Why is Zantac Dangerous?
The FDA called for the removal of all ranitidine drugs, known by the brand name of Zantac. The FDA found high levels of the contaminant N-Nitrosodimethylamine (NDMA) in the drug. The FDA determined that the impurity in some ranitidine products increases over time, particularly when stored above room temperature. It may expose consumers to “unacceptable levels of this impurity.”
Scientists carried out studies on animals that linked NDMA to several cancers including those of the colon, rectum, stomach, and liver cancer. Many of the litigants suing the makers of Zantac claim the drug caused esophageal cancer.
Many major retailers pulled Zantac from their shelves last year. Lawsuits have been filed against Zantac manufacturer Sanofi-Aventis LLC and Boehringer Ingelheim Pharmaceuticals, the company that previously held the rights to the drug.
Haskins from Ridgeway, Virginia started using Zantac for heartburn in 2005. She has since been diagnosed with esophageal cancer, a cancer of the tube that connects the throat to the stomach. Haskins’ complaint, filed in the US District Court for the District of New Jersey in February alleges that ranitidine, the active ingredient in the heartburn drug, formed unsafe levels of the carcinogen NDMA in her body.
The complaint alleged the case involves “perhaps one of the most sinister and gravest public-health frauds in modern times” It stated every manufacturer of prescription and over-the-counter Zantac has “aggressively pushed a poisonous pill into the stream of commerce,” since Zantac’s launch in 1983.
Zantac was widely used until 2018. It was one of the most popular antacids on the market until revelations about the presence of NDMA stalled sales. The World Health Organization has described NDMA as “clearly carcinogenic.”
What is Esophageal Cancer?
Esophageal cancer is a particularly deadly form of cancer. The Mayo Clinic describes it as the sixth most common cause of cancer deaths worldwide. It occurs in the esophagus, a long, hollow tube that connects the throat to the stomach. The esophagus helps move the food we swallow from the backs of our throats to our stomachs for digestion.
Esophageal cancer typically starts in the cells that line the inside of the esophagus. This virulent cancer can occur anywhere along the esophagus. More men than women are diagnosed with esophageal cancer. Alcohol, smoking, and gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) are known risk factors. A number of people who are suing the manufacturers of Zantac claim they suffered esophageal cancer. However, exposure to high levels of NDMA is thought to cause a considerable number of gastric or colorectal cancers.
What Does the FDA’s Announcement Mean for Zantac Users?
- FDA will be sending letters to all manufacturers of ranitidine telling them to withdraw their products from the market.
- If you are still taking OTC ranitidine, stop taking any tablets or liquid. Dispose of the pills and don’t buy any more.
- Patients who take prescription ranitidine should talk to their doctor about alternatives before stopping their treatment.
- The FDA notes heartburn alternatives such as Nexium, Prevacid, Prilosec, and Pepcid, appear to be free of NDMA.
- Do not take your Zantac to a drug take-back location in light of the current COVID-19 pandemic. Follow specific disposal guidelines on the packet.
Talk to a Virginia Zantac Lawyer over your Health Concerns
Contact a lawyer if you believe Zantac caused you to develop esophageal or another form of cancer. Many over the counter drugs have been linked to cancer in recent years. Big pharmaceutical companies often put their profits above consumer safety even if it means paying millions of dollars in lawsuits. More research is needed to conclusively answer the question ‘does Zantac cause esophageal cancer?’ However, this week’s announcement by the FDA is the strongest indictment to date against the antacid. We are concerned about the exposure of millions of Americans to a cancer-causing ingredient over almost four decades. Please talk to our dangerous drugs team as soon as possible.