Trusted newspaper columnist and internist Dr. Roach recently fielded a question by a 78-year-old man who wondered if his years-long use of the heartburn drug Zantac may put him at risk for side effects.
The man, referred to only as L.L., said he’d been taking 300mg of ranitidine, the active ingredient in Zantac, just before bedtime for the past seven to eight years. “It was prescribed to treat reflux,” he wrote. “As you know, this product has been recalled. I wonder if I could be suffering any adverse effects from my sustained usage.”
L.L. has a right to be concerned. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in April ordered all Zantac and other products containing ranitidine off the market because the medication contained NDMA, short for N-nitrosodimethylamine, a probable human carcinogen. Studies with laboratory animals have linked NDMA exposure to cancerous tumors, but no studies have been published to date to determine the risk to humans. With many drugs, higher dosages and longer use increase the likelihood of the medication side effects.
Dr. Roach was reassuring, telling L.L. that his risk was likely small and that he wouldn’t recommend any extra testing to look for cancer. But the news of NDMA in Zantac is still concerning to former Zantac users.
The FDA first warned about the presence of NDMA in Zantac on Sept. 13, 2019. But the agency said it believed the levels were not high enough to cause concern. The agency advised manufacturers of Zantac and ranitidine products to test their drugs and recall any lots that contained what it considered unacceptable levels of NDMA. Several recalls ensued, and many retail stores pulled what was left of the drug from their shelves out of an abundance of caution. The FDA took a closer look at studies from third-party laboratories and announced April 1 that it had confirmed NDMA was present in Zantac products at levels that could pose risks to consumers.
Ingesting NDMA at low levels isn’t thought to increase the risk of cancer, the FDA said. But “sustained higher levels of exposure may increase the risk of cancer in humans.” Some cancers that may be related to NDMA exposure include stomach, small intestine, bladder, kidney, colorectal, esophageal, prostate, and pancreatic, as well as leukemia, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, and multiple myeloma.
If you or a loved one was a regular user of Zantac or any other product containing ranitidine and have been diagnosed with cancer, we would like to talk with you. Contact Frank Woodson, one of our leading pharmaceutical attorneys in charge of Zantac cancer claims.