Charles Mudede, a contributor to The Stranger, believes Zantac killed his brother.

Sensitive stomachs ran in the Mudede family, Charles claimed. When he suffered a bout of belly disturbance after eating raw oysters, his brother Kudzai recommended he take the over-the-counter heartburn drug Zantac. “Kudzai could not stop praising Zantac. He used it all the time,” Charles wrote in an op-ed published in The Stranger.

Charles found Zantac at Walgreens but opted not to buy it because the $40 price tag seemed unreasonable for an OTC medicine. Instead, he visited his doctor and followed a bland diet until his system returned to normal. Meanwhile, his brother, the strong advocate for Zantac, was diagnosed with cancer. “Even as he was dying from cancer that originated in his stomach or pancreas (the doctors never figured out which it was, even after the autopsy), he wanted the drug,” Charles wrote.

A month after his death, Charles learned that Zantac and several generics containing the same active ingredient, ranitidine, were found to contain N-nitrosodimethylamine, or NDMA, a probable human carcinogen. Shortly thereafter, several companies recalled Zantac and other OTC and prescription ranitidine products. On April 1, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced it was pulling the medication off the market after finding levels of NDMA increase in ranitidine even under normal storage conditions, and could increase significantly when stored at higher temperatures. This, the FDA said, posed a risk to consumers who used the drug.

NDMA has been found “in laboratory research to induce tumors in experimental animals,” according to the U.S. National Library of Medicine. Some cancers that may be related to NDMA include stomach, small intestine, bladder, kidney, colorectal, esophageal, prostate, pancreatic, leukemia, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, and multiple myeloma. No study has been published to date that provides any specific risk for any particular cancer.

Charles believes that Zantac caused his brother’s cancer because Kudzai had been taking Zantac regularly for at least two years and because his brother was only 37 when he died.

“I authorized the examination of his genes to determine if there was a some flaw that made him and the members of the family susceptible to either stomach or pancreatic cancer, both which are relatively rare in young people (the average age for stomach cancer is, for example, 68). The lab results found no genetic defects, much to the relief of my children,” Charles wrote. “This evidence provided a clue to the source of the cancer that killed Kudzai: more likely extrinsic than intrinsic.”

Charles said he shared his story as a warning to others. “It’s something you may want to tell your doctor about, if, that is, if you have a doctor.”

Beasley Allen attorneys Frank Woodson and Lisa Courson are actively investigating potential claims involving regular Zantac/ranitidine use that may have led to cancer of the stomach, colon, intestines, kidneys, bladder or pancreas. If you or a loved one may have been affected, please contact us.

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