CVS Halts Sale of Zantac Due to Cancer Risks

CVS announced it has stopped selling the heartburn medication Zantac, along with other generic versions of the medication, after concerns were raised over possible cancer risks.  Our lawyers are moving quickly and are now investigating Zantac cancer lawsuits.

CVS told consumers last weekend that sales of Zantac would be suspended indefinitely. This announcement comes after the FDA released a statement earlier this month saying that many heartburn medications, including the brand Zantac, contain an ingredient impurity known to cause cancer.

In a statement, CVS noted that the FDA has not yet recalled Zantac or other generic heartburn medications.  Importantly, there is also no current recommendation to stop taking these types of drugs. Still, CVS decided that it was time to lead based on the growing evidence from the FDA.

What are the risks of Zantac?

Zantac and Ranitidine Recall Infographic

Click to enlarge

All drugs carry risks. There are virtually no medications that affect human physiology that do not travel with possible risk.  Adverse reactions ranitidine are generally thought to be rare.  Most neurologic side effects are seen in elderly patients or patients with kidney or hepatic impairment.  These side effects are usually resolved by simply stopping the use of ranitidine.  You also see rare cases of hepatic toxicity with ranitidine.

So no one is saying drugs have to be perfectly safe.  The question is whether there is an unacceptable cancer risk with ranitidine.

Ranitidine is classified as an antacid and is the main ingredient in many heartburn medications, including Zantac. Inside these ranitidine products, the FDA has determined through lab tests that they contain low levels of an impurity called N-nitrosodimethylamine, or NDMA.

The FDA has been investigating NDMA in blood pressure and heart failure medications since last year, and WHO has recently labeled the impurity is a “probable human carcinogen”.

This isn’t the first time NDMA has been detected in over-the-counter medications, either. The FDA has recalled several other medications that contain the ingredient valsartan. Valsartan products have also been found to contain “unacceptable levels” of the NDMA impurity that is possibly linked to cancer.

Should patients stop taking the medication?

Currently, health regulators are telling consumers to not discontinue taking their heartburn medications. CVS is allowing customers to return their products for a refund if they wish to do so. However, the FDA said that patients who are taking prescription-strength heartburn products containing ranitidine should contact their healthcare provider to discuss alternative treatments.

What’s next?

The future of these products will depend on what kind of further research is released by the FDA. In a study published by the medical journal BMJ last year, researchers found no “markedly increased short term overall risk of cancer” among users of valsartan drugs that were made with NDMA. The study did mention, however, that there is a need for more research on the long-term risk of cancer.

It’s expected that more companies and countries will ban the sale of Zantac and its generic counterparts until the safety of these drugs has been fully established. As of right now, Canada, France, and Bangladesh have all issued a temporary removal of ranitidine products from store shelves.

Should We Expect Zantac Lawsuits?

We should probably expect Zantac lawsuits.  This chemical has been commercially available for nearly 40 years.  No one saw a connection to cancer in all of that time?  My guess is that the makers of ranitidine probably saw data showing a connection, wrote about it, and the research and efforts to test a connection went nowhere.  My guess is lawsuits get filed and we get a better idea of who knows what.  Of course, all of this presupposes causation between Zantac and cancer and I cannot say that has yet to be proven to anyone satisfaction.  But lawyers are going to be digging if there is a large number of cancer patients and we will see where the evidence goes.

Are Lawyers Interested in These Claims?

Ah, I think so.  This is the email I got today:

We are generating Zantac Cancer leads at $20 per lead and depending on the criteria we are seeing retained cases at $65-$125 per case. We are very transparent when it comes to our lead generation program and want to earn your business. We work on a 15% of ad spend management fee that includes managing your campaigns, ads, creating landing pages and integrating with your CRM or lead management systems. Don’t miss out on the oppurtunity (okay, they don’t have spellcheck)  to get Zantac cancer cases while they are cheap – we are already seeing a lot of firms jumping on board! Give us a call or send us an email for more information.

Again, we are lawyers are NOW INVESTIGATING THESE CLAIMS.