When the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced April 1, 2020, that it was pulling the popular heartburn drug Zantac off the market due to the presence of a probable cancer-causing impurity, the news sent shockwaves around the world. More than 60 million Americans suffer from occasional heartburn. Millions of them take over-the-counter Zantac or a generic version containing ranitidine, and at least 15 million of them take a prescription variety of the drug.
The impurity, known as NDMA, short for N-nitrosodimethylamine, is found naturally in the environment and trace amounts can be found in food and water. At low levels, the impurity is not considered dangerous. But higher levels have been linked to cancerous tumors in laboratory animals and leading health experts say it poses cancer risks to humans.
In September 2019, the FDA announced that an independent pharmacy had detected elevated levels of NDMA in versions of Zantac. The news led to numerous recalls of the drug and, ultimately, the FDA’s removal of all ranitidine-containing products from the market, including Zantac.
The FDA is not recommending special screening for Zantac users beyond regular scheduled health screenings. There have also not been any studies published at this point that can identify how great the risk of cancer is for someone who used ranitidine-containing drugs, or the specific tumors they may cause.
However, the World Health Organization believes that NDMA could be linked to either gastric (stomach) or colorectal cancer. A report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that laboratory rats exposed to NDMA were at greater risk of developing liver and lung cancer as well as non-cancerous liver damage. Other cancers that may be linked to NDMA exposure include bladder, kidney, and pancreatic cancer.
According to the American Cancer Society, signs and symptoms of possible stomach cancer include:
- Poor appetite
- Unexplained weight loss
- Abdominal pain or discomfort
- Low back pain
- Heartburn or indigestion
- Vomiting, with or without blood
- Swelling in the abdomen
- Blood in the stool or urine
- White, chalky stools
- Yellow discoloration of skin or whites of eyes
If you or a loved one have used Zantac and have experienced any of these symptoms, schedule an appointment with a medical professional and get screened for cancer. If you or a loved one have been diagnosed with a possible Zantac cancer, you may have a case against the drug makers.