Enough American stomachs worried about what’s going on with heartburn medication Zantac, other forms of ranitidine, a probable carcinogen and recalls that the FDA posted a Q&A Friday afternoon.
Here are the highlights:
What’s the problem with ranitidine, sold under various store brand names and the the name brand Zantac?
Some ranitidine products have the impurity NDMA (N-nitrosodimethylamine), which testing has classified as a “probable human carcinogen,” a cancer-causing element.
It occurs naturally, but too much can be a problem. Many heart and blood pressure medications have been recalled since July 2018 because they exceeded the FDA standard for NDMA and similar impurities.
Will I get cancer from taking ranitidine with NDMA?
The FDA says it doesn’t have enough evidence to say stop taking ranitidine, but also doesn’t know enough about safe NDMA levels in ranitidine to give an all clear.
“Although NDMA may cause harm in large amounts, the levels the FDA is finding in ranitidine from preliminary tests barely exceed amounts you might expect to find in common foods,” the FDA stated Sept. 13.
Even in the case of all the heart and blood pressure meds recalled, the FDA estimated that 8,000 people taking the highest doses of valsartan with NDMA for four years, there might be one more case of cancer than normal.
Has all the ranitidine sold in the U.S. been recalled?
No. Sandoz recalled prescription strength ranitidine on Sept. 23. Two days later, Apotex recalled over-the-counter ranitidine sold as store brands of Walmart (Equate), Walgreens (Wal-Zan) and Rite Aid.
Those are the only United States ranitidine recalls listed among the FDA’s drug recalls.
CVS suspended sales of Zantac and CVS Health store brand ranitidine on Sept. 28. That was not a recall, however. Though customers with these products bought at CVS can return them for a refund, the chain wasn’t telling customers flatly to not use them.
What should you do until ranitidine gets an across-the-board clear (if it’s going to get an across-the-board clear)?
If you’re taking prescription ranitidine and want to stop, talk to your doctor about an alternative.
If you’re taking over-the-counter versions, you can try Pepcid (generic name: famotidine), Tagamet (cimetidine), Nexium (esomeprazole), Prevacid (lansoprazole) and Prilosec (omeprazole).