Pharmacies are pulling the popular heartburn medication Zantac off their shelves after a Connecticut laboratory discovered the drug contains a possible cancer-causing substance.
CVS Pharmacy said it will no longer sell the acid-blocker Zantac and its generic after the FDA detected low levels of a known carcinogen in those drugs.
“I just think everything’s bad for you now. If I didn’t take it I would really be suffering,” said Sara Roman of Southington.
Roman said she depended on the heartburn healer Zantac to get through all three of her pregnancies.
“I had really bad heartburn, and it was really a lifesaver,” she explained.
The ingredient in Zantac, ranitidine, suppresses stomach acid and relieves heartburn. The FDA is alerting patients and physicians to an impurity possibly created in the manufacturing of the drug. It’s called N-Nitrosodimethylamine or NDMA, which is a probable cancer causer in humans.
The levels that the FDA found barely exceed allowable amounts found in common foods, but it was enough for the company that makes the generic form of ranitidine to voluntarily recall the medication this week. Some users wonder why it was even on store shelves at all.
“There’s supposed to be a government administration, a body that’s in place to protect us and it’s actually not doing a very good job,” said Melina Pappademos of West Hartford, who has also used the drug.
CVS Pharmacy said it will no longer carry the drug it its brand name or generic form. “This action is being taken out of an abundance of caution…” the company said in a statement.
Valisure, a pharmaceutical lab in New Haven said it first discovered NDMA in ranitidine and notified the FDA in June.
“It’s actually used very often as a controlled to induce cancer in rats in clinical studies. It’s used in pesticides, rocket fuel. You absolutely do not want it in your medicine,” said David Light, Valisure’s CEO.
Now, Valisure is petitioning the FDA to fully recall the drug.
“Definitely not worried about it. I’m fine, my kids are fine, we’re all going to be fine,” said Roman.
Pappademos said she would rather avoid the foods that give her heartburn and rely on home remedies instead.
“It’s not worth the risk,” she said.
Zantac’s parent company told NBC Connecticut it has no plans to stop distributing or manufacturing the drug and that, “We are working closely with the FDA and are conducting our own robust investigations.”
The FDA said that patients do not have to stop taking Zantac and or the generic ranitidine but those who are concerned should talk to their doctor about an alternative over the counter drug.