Zantac, ranitidine manufacturers knew about cancer risks of heartburn drugs decades ago, lawsuit alleges

Zantac and ranitidine users with cancer may qualify to file a lawsuit.

A lawsuit recently filed against the manufacturer of Zantac alleges that drugmakers have known for decades about the risk that the heartburn medication could become contaminated with a chemical that can lead to cancer. Both Zantac and its generic equivalent, ranitidine, were recalled by the FDA in April 2020 after researchers discovered that they were contaminated with the cancer-causing chemical NDMA.

The lawsuit filed by Alabama resident Virgil Beck alleges that he began using Zantac to treat his heartburn symptoms back in 1993. In 2018, Beck was diagnosed with prostate cancer, but he continued using Zantac until 2019, when researchers discovered that Zantac and ranitidine were contaminated with NDMA.

According to his lawsuit, researchers had discovered as early as 1981 that patients taking Zantac may be exposed to NDMA, which could increase their risk of developing cancer. An article published that year in The Lancet found that when ranitidine came into contact with stomach acid and nitrites, a type of chemical sometimes present in drinking water or foods, it could lead to “toxic and mutagenic effects”.

In response to the study, researchers at GlaxoSmithKline expressed concerns that these effects could lead to the formation of NDMA in the stomach, which is linked to an increased risk of developing cancer. Eventually, the researchers dismissed this possibility, stating that the level of nitrites that would have to be present in the stomach for NDMA to form was far greater than the amount that could be present in the stomach after eating.

Zantac, Ranitidine Recalled by FDA Over Cancer Concerns

Nearly 40 years after GlaxoSmithKline researchers dismissed concerns that Zantac and ranitidine could lead to cancer, these same concerns were echoed by researchers with the online pharmacy Valisure, who had discovered that the two heartburn drugs were contaminated with NDMA.

In 2018, researchers discovered unsafe levels of NDMA in the blood pressure medication Valsartan. After researchers began testing other medications to look for potentially cancerous levels of this chemical, scientists at Valisure reported widespread and high levels of NDMA contamination in both Zantac and generic ranitidine.

The most common forms of cancer associated with exposure to NDMA are gastric cancer, stomach cancer, and colorectal cancer. Laboratory tests have also indicated that NDMA may also increase the risk of liver cancer and lung cancer.

Several drugmakers that manufactured Zantac or ranitidine — including GSK, Apotex, Sandoz, and Novartis — issued a global recall for the heartburn drugs because of the risk they could cause cancer. Many nationwide pharmacy chains — including CVS, Rite Aid, Walgreens, and Walmart — also followed suit.

After additional studies confirmed that Zantac and ranitidine were widely contaminated with NDMA, the FDA ordered these medications to be recalled because of the likelihood that they could increase the risk of cancer. In the wake of the FDA’s Zantac and ranitidine recall, the agency issued new safety guidelines for drugmakers in order to limit the amount of nitrosamines, cancer-causing chemicals that include NDMA, in prescription and over-the-counter medications.

Zantac, Ranitidine Makers Face Lawsuits Over Cancer Risks

In the wake of the FDA’s recall of Zantac and ranitidine, hundreds of patients who were diagnosed with cancer after using these drugs have filed lawsuits against GSK or other pharmaceutical companies that produced these medications. These drugmakers are also facing several class action lawsuits involving the cancer risks of Zantac or ranitidine.

According to these lawsuits, drugmakers like GSK were made aware of the potential for Zantac and ranitidine to cause cancer decades ago. Rather than warning doctors and patients about the potential cancer risks of these heartburn drugs, Zantac and ranitidine were left on the market, placing millions of patients at risk of developing cancer.

Because of the many patients who have used these two heartburn drugs in the past decades, legal experts have predicted that thousands of additional Zantac and ranitidine lawsuits will be filed over the coming year. In addition to the claims filed against the companies who manufactured Zantac and ranitidine, lawsuits may also be filed against pharmacies where these drugs were sold to patients.

Free Legal Consultation for Zantac, Ranitidine Users With Cancer

If you or a loved one used Zantac or ranitidine to treat heartburn, acid reflux, GERD, or other conditions caused by too much stomach acid and were diagnosed with cancer, you may be eligible to file a lawsuit and receive compensation for your illness. The first step in filing a claim is to speak with an experienced pharmaceutical liability attorney, who can answer your questions about filing a lawsuit.

For more information whether you qualify to file a Zantac or ranitidine lawsuit, contact the law firm at Hissey, Mulderig & Friend to schedule a free legal consultation with one of our attorneys. You can reach us by calling toll-free at 1-866-806-8117, or by answering a few simple questions in the free case evaluation form located on the right side of this page.

After we receive your submission, one of our staff members will contact you to obtain any additional information we need and to schedule your free consultation with one of our lawyers.

About the Author: Hissey, Mulderig & Friend