Some forms of the popular heartburn drug have been recalled. Here’s what you need to know.
If you or someone you know treats frequent heartburn with Zantac, your stomach may be in knots over recent news that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) detected low levels of a possible cancer-causing contaminant in Zantac and its generic version, ranitidine.
While testing continues, some drug makers have voluntarily recalled the popular heartburn medication, while others still remain on pharmacy shelves. So what gives, and what is the FDA recommending patients do? Here’s the lowdown.
Where does the FDA currently stand?
The FDA has not recommended that patients stop taking ranitidine. The levels of N-nitrosodimethylamine (NDMA) — the contaminant in question — found in their testing are similar to what you’d consume in certain foods, like bacon and other smoked or cured meats, beer, fish and cheese.
The FDA released a summary of its ranitidine testing results so far, and is asking manufacturers whose levels exceed the agency’s allowable amount to recall their meds.
Have an OTC version at home? Call your pharmacist and ask if it’s been recalled. If it has, the FDA says to follow the manufacturer’s recall instructions (a quick Google search for your medication’s label and the word “recall” will help you find their instructions).
If most tests show low levels of NDMA, why is ranitidine being recalled?
Many manufacturers and retailers have voluntarily pulled the drug as a precautionary measure as testing continues. Brand-name Zantac has been recalled, and while some generic versions have been, too, others are still available.
So, should I stop taking ranitidine?
Unless your medication has been recalled by its manufacturer, it’s up to you and your medical providers.
If you’re taking an OTC version and are concerned, your pharmacist can help you decide which alternative medication would be best for you. So far, the FDA hasn’t found NDMA in other medications approved for heartburn, including Pepcid, Tagamet, Nexium, Prevacid or Prilosec. If you use prescription ranitidine, talk to your doctor about whether you should switch to a suitable alternative.
Where can I look for updates on the recalls?
The FDA regularly publishes announcements, (see below for the timeline so far) including when retailers pull the drug from their shelves and when manufacturers recall it.
The Zantac Recall Timeline
September 13: The FDA first announces that some samples of ranitidine showed low levels of N-nitrosodimethylamine (NDMA).
September 24: Drug maker Sandoz voluntarily recalls its prescription ranitidine capsules. The FDA continues to test ranitidine samples.
September 26: Drug maker Apotex voluntarily recalls generic over-the-counter (OTC) ranitidine sold under store-brand labels for Walgreens, Walmart and Rite-Aid. The FDA continues to test samples and asks drug makers to continue testing, as well.
September 30: Major news outlets report that CVS, Walgreens and Rite Aid are pulling Zantac and its generic versions from shelves.
October 2: The FDA continues to test ranitidine for NDMA and its possible effects on patients. The FDA also announces the testing method used by a third party may have caused the elevated levels of NDMA.
October 23: Sanofi voluntarily recalls brand-name Zantac OTC. Dr. Reddy’s Laboratories voluntarily recalls prescription ranitidine and OTC versions sold under the Walgreens, Walmart, CVS, Target and Kroger store labels.
October 28: Three more drug makers (who supply the medication to a variety of retailers) voluntarily recall ranitidine: Perrigo, Novitium Pharma and Lannett.
November 1: The FDA releases a summary of its ranitidine testing results so far, and many show low levels of NDMA.
If you use a prescription heartburn medication, remember to check Blink Health (just search for the name of your medication) to see if you can save.
This article is not medical advice. It is intended for general informational purposes and is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your physician or dial 911. Blink Health is not insurance. The discount prescription drug provider is Blink Health Administration, LLC, 536 Broadway, 2nd Floor, New York, NY 10012, (844) 366–2211, www.blinkhealth.com