Why Zantac Became a Dangerous Drug

Zantac (ranitidine) began as an alternative to Tagamet (cimetidine) in the late 1970s and was lauded for its lack of adverse drug reactions, long-term effectiveness, and its strength when compared to Tagamet. It hit the streets in 1981 and became a popular antacid for chronic indigestion and acid reflux by 1987. Zantac remained popular for almost 40 years until a little-known pharmacy discovered that Zantac contained NDMA (n-nitrosodimethylamine) a known carcinogen, during routine medication testing. Now Zantac has been pulled from shelves and people are suing drug manufacturers for their cancers that may be linked to the medication.

What Exactly is Zantac?

Zantac is an antacid that works by blocking histamine receptors in the stomach. Its active ingredient is called ranitidine hydrochloride (HCI), USP, and is classified as an H2 receptor antagonist. One of the major causes of stomach acid production is histamine secreted from cells in the stomach wall. Zantac blocks the histamine receptors and prevents the stomach from overproducing digestive acids.

Understanding N-Nitrosodimethylamine

N-nitrosodimethylamine, or NDMA for short, is a nitrosamine that’s found in some foods and in man-made compounds. It’s prevalent in the environment although it breaks down quickly when exposed to air. When ingested in high quantities, NDMA can cause severe liver disease with or without cancer. The FDA has classified NDMA as a probable human carcinogen on the basis that the compound has caused cancer in laboratory animals. Human trials with NDMA have never been performed which makes the link between Zantac and gastrointestinal cancer a working theory with a very strong probability of cause.

Examining the Link Between NMDA and Ranitidine

When Valisure pharmacy tested ranitidine for purity and quality, it was thought that the batch was contaminated by NDMA during its manufacture. Further testing suggested that ranitidine degrades over time and turns into NDMA. The FDA initially refuted Valisure’s results, then tested the medication under slightly different conditions and found that the medication still produced unacceptable levels of NDMA.

The current working theory is that heat is the culprit that causes ranitidine to convert to NDMA. Leaving a package of Zantac in a hot car or the human body temperature may be sufficient enough to cause ranitidine to release NDMA. One test that recreated the stomach environment resulted in a discovery of 300,000 ng of NDMA from a 150 mg dose of Zantac. The 300,000 ng is over 3,000 times the maximum tolerance level of NDMA in angiotensin receptor blockers, a medication used in heart patients. The FDA pulled Zantac from the shelves on April 1, 2020 when it was discovered that storing the product at higher than average room temperatures increases the amount of NDMA in each pill.

How an Unsafe Drug May Affect the Health of Thousands of People

To date, official studies are still working to link NDMA, Zantac and certain types of cancer together. However, the fact that people have been taking the drug for decades and have suffered from various types of gastrointestinal cancer demonstrates a potential link exists. Physicians recommended Zantac to their patients with the assurance it was safe to use and had no adverse side effects. However, NDMA is a known carcinogen which means people have been willingly taking a medication that can kill them for a very long time. The FDA is not taking any chances and has pulled the drug from the shelves, but it may be too late for thousands of people.

Contact an Experienced Zantac Injury Lawyer

My name is Brian Ricci and I am a North Carolina Personal Injury Lawyer. Anyone who has been injured by Zantac should contact me at 252-777-2222 for free, friendly advice. I also have a toll-free number at (800) 387-6406.

We are interested in speaking to people who were regular users of Zantac (by prescription and/or over-the-counter) for at least a year before developing:

  • stomach cancer
  • kidney cancer
  • bladder cancer
  • liver cancer
  • lung cancer
  • testicular cancer
  • esophageal cancer
  • colorectal cancer
  • pancreatic cancer
  • throat cancer
  • pediatric cancer (from prenatal use by pregnant women or pediatric use)

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