Carcinogens and Cancer Risks: Who’s Affected?
- Zantac and other ranitidine medications have been recalled over concerns they contain potentially dangerous levels of a known carcinogen.
- If you were diagnosed with cancer after taking ranitidine medications including Zantac, you may have a legal claim.
In 2019, a global ranitidine recall was issued over concerns that Zantac and other ranitidine products contained elevated levels of an impurity that is classified as a probable human carcinogen.
Ranitidine is a common stomach acid blocker often used to treat heartburn. Zantac is a popular brand name version of ranitidine and it can be sold over-the-counter or as a prescription.
In response to the global recall, many angry consumers have stepped up to take legal action against the drug manufacturers, accusing them of continuing to market the drugs even though they should have known they posed a potential Zantac cancer risk.
Why Was Zantac Recalled?
Health Canada announced a ranitidine recall in October 2019 after testing found it contained unacceptable levels of N-nitrosodimethylamine (NDMA), which has been classified as a probable human carcinogen. A global ranitidine recall was issued over the NDMA contamination.
As a result of the Zantac recall, Canada faced shortages of heartburn relief medications such as Pepcid (famotidine) as Zantac users sought alternative treatment for their symptoms. The United States did not face similar shortages as its ranitidine recall of NDMA-contaminated heartburn medications was only voluntary.
Health Canada urged consumers affected by the Zantac recall to contact their doctor or pharmacist to find out about non-ranitidine heartburn treatment, according to their recall updates page. Consumers were advised not to stop taking the medication until they found alternative treatment because the risks of not treating their condition could be more significant than the risk of NDMA exposure.
The Health Canada ranitidine recall included products manufactured by:
- Apotex Inc.
- Dominion Pharmacal
- Laboratoire Riva Inc.
- Pharmascience Inc.
- Pro Doc Limitée
- Ranbaxy Pharmaceuticals Canada Inc.
- Sandoz Canada
- Sanis Health Inc.
- Sanofi Consumer Health Inc.
- Sivem Pharmaceuticals ULC
- Teva Canada Limited
- Vita Health Products Inc.
In July 2020, Health Canada announced that companies wishing to sell ranitidine products must undertake strengthened safety measures and provide test data to Health Canada.
Does Zantac Cause Cancer?
The Zantac cancer concern is due to an NDMA impurity found in some ranitidine products. The European Medicines Agency has determined that NDMA is considered a probable human carcinogen based on animal studies.
According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, NDMA is an environmental contaminant that is found in water, vegetables, meat, and dairy products.
Medications that were contaminated with NDMA during the manufacturing process may increase the risk of Zantac cancer in individuals who are exposed to elevated levels of NDMA over an extended period of time.
The Therapeutic Goods Administration, Australia’s regulatory agency, says that there is a low risk of Zantac cancer caused by NDMA contamination.
“However, such contamination is considered unacceptable for a medicine,” the TGA stated. “The actual health risks depend on dose and will vary from person to person. The risks from short-term use of ranitidine are expected to be extremely low.”
What Are Other Ranitidine Side Effects?
The following ranitidine side effects are infrequent and not severe, according to WebMD:
- Skin Rash
- Stomach Cramps
In rare instances, Zantac use can lead to serious ranitidine side effects such as abnormal liver function, hepatitis, jaundice, depression, interstitial nephritis, inflammation of the pancreas, fever, hallucinations, or pneumonia.
Have Zantac Cancer Lawsuits Been Filed in Canada?
Several Zantac cancer lawsuits have already been filed in Canada. A Vancouver man who took ranitidine medications on and off for a number of years says he has experienced mental distress along with an increased risk of potentially developing cancer due to long-term exposure to NDMA.
Two plaintiffs launched a Zantac lawsuit in the Ontario Superior Court of Justice in April 2020, arguing the makers of Zantac knew or should have known that Zantac was unsafe for ingestion yet continued to market the ranitidine medication.
A Quebec resident filed a Zantac cancer lawsuit following the ranitidine recall in 2019 seeking to represent a Class of Canadian residents who purchased the allegedly contaminated drug.
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