Diabetics who took Zantac at greater risk for bladder cancer

People with type 2 diabetes are at increased risk for bladder cancer, and that risk may be even greater among diabetics who used the heartburn drug Zantac and other acid-reducers containing the active ingredient ranitidine, a Stanford University study suggests, as reported by Scientific American.

Zantac and Diabetes

More than 32 million Americans have diabetes and another 88 million have prediabetes. The disease occurs when blood glucose, or blood sugar, is too high. Risk factors for type 2 diabetes are age, high blood pressure, and being overweight or obese. Obesity is also a leading cause of frequent heartburn because excess weight puts added pressure on the abdomen making stomach acid leakage or backflow more likely, according to the American Society for Gastrointestinal Endoscopy.

Zantac and other ranitidine-containing drugs were pulled from the market on April 1 due to health concerns. At that time, 15 million people used prescription ranitidine products and millions more used over-the-counter versions of Zantac. Zantac was withdrawn because it was found to contain NDMA, an environmental contaminant that is sometimes found in food and water. NDMA is considered a probable human carcinogen. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) considers it safe to consume up to 96 nanograms of NDMA a day based on annual consumption. But levels higher than that may put consumers at risk for cancer, the agency said.

Zantac was pulled from the market after it was found that levels of NDMA in Zantac could increase over time under normal storage conditions, such as at higher temperatures or the longer the medication was from its manufacturing date.

Zantac isn’t the only medication found to have unsafe levels of NDMA. In 2018, the blood pressure and heart failure drug valsartan and others in the ARB class were recalled after several were found to contain NDMA. Two-thirds of American adults with diabetes have high blood pressure or take a prescription to lower their blood pressure, according to the American Diabetes Association.

Beginning late last year, sweeping recalls of extended-release metformin, a first-line treatment for diabetes patients, were issued due to unsafe levels of NDMA. The FDA is continuing to investigate the issue.

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