Note: Zantac is not currently available in the United States. The following information was accurate before the recall.
Zantac was a brand-name heartburn drug. The generic drug is ranitidine, the active ingredient in Zantac. It treated gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) and other conditions related to excess stomach acid. For some patients, Zantac caused side effects, including headaches, diarrhea and constipation.
In 2019, laboratory tests found a cancer-causing material, NDMA, in Zantac medications. NDMA may have been present in Zantac since its launch in the 1980s. As a result, consumers diagnosed with cancer after taking Zantac have filed lawsuits against its manufacturers.Considering a Zantac Lawsuit? Get a Free Zantac Cancer Legal Case Review
Brand-name Zantac became commercially available in the 1980s. Ranitidine is a form of antihistamine known as a histamine-2 receptor blocker (H2 blocker).
Although the drug is no longer sold in the U.S., the World Health Organization (WHO) includes ranitidine on its "List of Essential Medicines." This list includes 433 drugs WHO deems necessary for protecting global public health.
Due to Zantac's ability to decrease stomach acid, it was commonly used as a heartburn drug. It can reduce stomach acid by more than 70%.
Prior to the recalls, Zantac was available in several forms:
- Effervescent Tablet
Zantac was sold in prescription-strength and over-the-counter (OTC) formulas. As such, the instructions for each form of Zantac varied.
Previous use instructions for ranitidine, Zantac, and ranitidine hydrochloride drugs can still be found:
Common Forms of OTC Ranitidine (Zantac)
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved Zantac for the treatment of heartburn in adults and children 12 years or older. It was also used to treat other conditions caused by the overproduction of stomach acid. These conditions include:
- Gastric ulcers
- Small intestine (duodenal) ulcers
- Zollinger-Ellison syndrome
- Excess production of stomach acid
- Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)
Heartburn is not related to the heart. It is a non-technical term for the medical condition pyrosis. Pyrosis is discomfort accompanied by a burning or hot sensation behind the breastbone.
Heartburn is often caused by acid reflux, or acid rising up from the stomach into the throat. Acid reflux can be triggered by excess stomach acid. It is sometimes referred to as acid indigestion or indigestion.
Zantac (Ranitidine) Side Effects
Clinical trials show patients experienced Zantac side effects infrequently. But, some side effects were more common than others.
Zantac users have reported the following side effects:
- Skin rash
- Stomach cramps
*The side effects above apply to Zantac 25, Zantac 75, Zantac 150, Zantac 300 and generic forms of the drug.
Very rarely, people who take Zantac reported severe side effects, including allergic reactions.
|Severe Side Effects Reported By Patients Taking Zantac
|*The relationship between Zantac and these side effects is unclear at this time.
Warnings and Contraindications
Zantac prescribing instructions provide several warnings and contraindications for the drug. A contraindication is a condition that makes a drug unusable for a given patient. For example, a penicillin allergy is a contraindication for taking penicillin.
Individuals with any of the following conditions should not have taken Zantac:
- Hypersensitivity to ranitidine
- Hypersensitivity to any Zantac ingredient
- A history of acute porphyria*
*Acute porphyria is a sudden condition with several symptoms. It is caused by high levels of a protein called porphyrin.
Doctors should have adjusted Zantac dosage for patients with the following conditions:
- Lowered kidney function
- Lowered liver function
Patients should have been issued the following warnings about Zantac:
- Patients with stomach or intestinal cancer may take Zantac. Zantac may improve their symptoms. This improvement does not rule out the existence of cancer.
- Zantac contains 2.81 mg of phenylalanine for every 25 mg of ranitidine. Individuals who cannot metabolize phenylalanine should adjust their dosage accordingly.
- Zantac may cause false-positives with certain drug tests.
- Taking zantac may have posed other possible drug interactions.
Notable Zantac Drug Interactions
Zantac may have interacted or interfered with any of the following drugs:
Alternatives to Zantac
The FDA suggests the following OTC alternatives for Zantac:
- Nexium (omeprazole, esomeprazole)
- Pepcid (famotidine)
- Prevacid (lansoprazole)
- Prilosec (omeprazole)
- Tagamet (cimetidine)
These five drugs have not been affected by the contamination behind the Zantac recalls. The FDA tested them independently and confirmed them to be safe alternatives.
Note: Several Zantac alternatives belong to a class of drugs called proton pump inhibitors (PPIs). PPIs have recently been linked to an increased risk of COVID-19. In a Cedars-Sinai study, PPI users had 2 to 4 times the risk of testing COVID-19 positive versus non-users.
You can discuss this potential risk and that of Zantac with your healthcare provider. You may be able to avoid these risks by choosing Pepcid or Tagamet instead. Pepcid and Tagamet are H2 blockers, not PPIs. You should consult a physician to determine which, if any, heartburn medication is best for you.
Zantac Recall & Cancer and Lawsuits
After n-nitrosodimethylamine (NDMA) was discovered in Zantac, the FDA asked manufacturers to stop selling it. Zantac was officially pulled from the market in April 2020. But, evidence suggests NDMA may have been present in Zantac since its launch in the 1980s.
As such, Zantac users may have been ingesting a carcinogenic substance for decades. Many consumers who developed cancer after taking Zantac believe the drug played a role in their cancer. This has prompted many former Zantac users to file lawsuits against the drug's manufacturers.
If the courts determine manufacturers knew about NDMA in Zantac, the plaintiffs in these cases may be awarded legal damages. Legal damages in this case would likely cover medical care and other costs associated with Zantac users' cancer diagnoses.