Heartburn is a very common ailment for folks in Illinois and across the country. While the ailment is common and is simply the result of a buildup of stomach acid, anyone who has dealt with esophageal and stomach pain can attest that heartburn is miserable. Over the years, large pharmaceutical companies and consumer health product stores and distributors like Walgreens in Illinois, have realized that the market for over the counter heartburn relief is very valuable. Enter Zantc, the blockbuster heartburn and gastroesophageal reflux disease-GERD, medication that has made its French manufacturer Sanofi SA and and Glaxo as well as United States retailers such as Walgreens, CVS, Rite Aid, and others billions of dollars–at the expense of its customers.
WHAT IS ZANTAC AND WHAT ARE THE ISSUES WITH THIS MEDICATION?
Zantac is a popular antacid medicine originally manufactured by Glaxo (now known as GlaxoSmithKline) and has been in existence since the 1980s. Zantac (ranitidine) belongs to a family of histamine-2 blockers which work to help reduce the amount of acid produced by the stomach. Therefore, many consumers have been using this medication or its generic equivalent daily for years to combat indigestion. Prescription-strength Zantac is also utilized for the treatment of very severe heartburn, stomach/intestinal ulcers and for Zollinger-Ellison disorder. Zantac was one of the best-selling medications and was the first to reach $1 billion in U.S. sales. However, current laboratory screening of ranitidine, the active ingredient of Zantac, conclude that high levels of N-Nitrosodimethylamine (NDMA) is prevalent. NDMA has been recognized as a human health hazard since the 1970s and has been published as a potent human carcinogen by the World Health Organization (WHO), the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and numerous other organizations. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) have published studies about the dangers of NDMA even at reduced dosages. Ingestion of NDMA has been shown to grow different types of cancer cells such as stomach cancer cells, colorectal cancer cells, bladder cancer cells, intestinal tract cancer cells, liver cancer cells, esophageal cancer cells, etc.
HAS THERE BEEN A RECALL?
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration after conducting its own tests on ranitidine published a public safety and security update in September 2019 which cautioned the general public about possible cancer dangers from Zantac use. Due to this public safety and security publication, voluntary recalls of Zantac have taken place. CVS, Walgreens, Rite Aid, Walmart and other major retailers have halted sales of Zantac and its generic equivalents. Sanofi, the current manufacturer of Zantac, has issued a voluntary recall in the United States and Canada. However, despite the voluntary recalls, the medicine was still available by prescription and over-the-counter at some stores. In April 2020, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration ordered the removal of Zantac off store shelves. Current prescriptions and over-the-counter Zantac will no longer be available.