The popular heartburn medication, ranitidine, is being pulled from pharmacy shelves worldwide. Some batches of these drugs have been found to contain nitrosodimethylamine (NDMA), a ‘probable’ carcinogen (cancer-causing chemical).
Ranitidine, which is marketed under the brand name Zantac and various generic brands, is used to reduce stomach acid and is commonly used to treat heartburn or gastric ulcers. These medications are available over-the-counter and by prescription.
The FDA is providing public updates regarding the recall and is testing ranitidine products from multiple manufacturers for the presence of NDMA.
Here’s what you need to know.
Which Ranitidine Products Are Affected?
Ranitidine is manufactured and sold by multiple companies. According to the FDA website, affected products can be identified by ‘NDC’ numbers on the product labels. You can access the complete list here.
But be aware, NDMA may be present in ranitidine regardless of the manufacturer. We can’t know for sure unless every product is tested. This has prompted many countries, including Australia, Canada, France, and the UK to recall all ranitidine-containing medications.
What Is NDMA?
NDMA is a chemical compound commonly found in low levels in various foods (especially cured or smoked meats). It can also be detected in some public supplies of drinking water and in air pollution. Years of long-term exposure to NDMA may increase one’s risk of developing cancer.
Any amount of NDMA in medications is considered unacceptable.
What You Should Do
If you’ve been taking ranitidine, don’t panic. Currently, the risk posed by NDMA from ranitidine, at the present levels identified, is considered to be very low.
Talk to your pharmacist (if you’re taking an over-the-counter version) or your healthcare provider (if you have a prescription) about alternatives to ranitidine. There are lots of other medications used to treat heartburn such as famotidine (Pepcid), omeprazole (Prilosec) and good ‘ol milk of magnesia. And don’t forget about lifestyle changes. Sometimes simply avoiding certain foods (spicy, fatty) and drinks (alcohol, soda) can prevent heartburn and reflux.
If you think you may be having adverse side effects related to the use of ranitidine, let your provider or pharmacist know. You can also file a report with the FDA’s MedWatch Safety Information and Adverse Event Reporting Program:
- Download form or call 1-800-332-1088 to request a reporting form, then complete and return to the address on the pre-addressed form, or submit by fax to 1-800-FDA-0178
- Some batches of ranitidine have been recalled. They have been found to contain low levels of a carcinogen called NDMA.
- If you have been taking ranitidine, ask your pharmacist or provider about alternative treatments.
- The risk of developing cancer from the short-term use of any affected ranitidine products is very low.
- Remember, all medications have risks. Even if you buy them over-the-counter without a prescription. Use this Quick Guide to help you better understand your medications and know how to take them safely.
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