What Is Zantac?

Zantac is a popular heartburn medication. It also goes by the generic name ranitidine.

Zantac has been the subject of multiple recalls this year. The recalls were issued following a series of alarming test results. The test results showed a cancer-causing material in some Zantac products.

Some consumers are concerned about the recent recalls. This page provides general information about Zantac and its generic forms. It can help consumers respond to the Zantac recalls by informing them of the drug’s usage and alternatives.

What is Zantac?

Zantac is the brand name for a type of antihistamine called ranitidine. It can weaken certain allergic reactions and decrease stomach acid production.

Zantac has been commercially available since the 1980s. 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 is commonly used as a heartburn treatment. It reduces stomach acid by approximately 70%.

Zantac is available in several forms:

  • Tablet
  • Injection
  • Effervescent Tablet
  • Syrup

There are both prescription strength and over-the-counter versions of Zantac. The instructions for each form of Zantac vary. Consumers should be sure to read and understand all instructions for their specific form of the drug.

Drug instructions for Zantac can be found:

What is Zantac Used For?

Zantac is FDA approved for the treatment of heartburn in adults and children 12 years or older. It is 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)

What is Heartburn?

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.

Zantac and Pregnancy

Pregnant women commonly experience heartburn, especially in the second and third trimesters. As a result, many pregnant women seek out acid-reducing drugs like Zantac.

Doctors usually recommend a couple of heartburn treatments before Zantac:

OTC Antacid
Antacids are composed of calcium and considered safe during pregnancy.

This prescription drug acts on the stomach. Only small amounts of sucralfate can cross into the bloodstream. So the risk of sucralfate exposure to a fetus is low.

If the first two treatments fail, then a doctor may recommend Zantac. It is one of the only drugs in its class that has been studied during pregnancy. Researchers have found no evidence of harm to fetuses exposed to Zantac.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) places Zantac in their pregnancy drug category B. Category B drugs must have studies demonstrating their safety for a developing fetus.

Zantac and Breastfeeding

Ranitidine has been found in human breast milk. Its effects on breastfeeding infants have also been studied.

One study investigated the effects of mothers taking 300 mg of Zantac for two days. There were no adverse effects on the infants in the study. Currently, there are no known adverse events from breastfeeding while using Zantac.

However, experts caution pregnant women against taking too much Zantac. Some women may find their symptoms persist even after taking the maximum dose of 300 mg per day. In cases like this, they should not take additional Zantac. Instead, such women should consult their physician. Their symptoms may be unrelated to heartburn. A physician can diagnose the real problem and prescribe a treatment for it.

Despite its apparent safety, breastfeeding mothers should consult a physician before using Zantac. Some mothers may also be concerned about the recent carcinogen-related recalls. They may want to choose an alternative heartburn medication. A qualified healthcare professional can help them do that.

Zantac in Infants

Zantac is approved for certain conditions in patients ranging from one month to 16 years old. In these patients, Zantac is safe and effective for the conditions below:

  • Gastric ulcers
  • Small intestine (duodenal) ulcers
  • Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) symptoms

Zantac has not been tested in infants younger than one month. Before giving Zantac to any child, parents should first consult a qualified physician.

Common Zantac Side Effects

Clinical trials show patients experience Zantac side effects infrequently. But some side effects are more common than others.

Zantac users have reported the following side effects most frequently:

  • Headache
  • Dizziness
  • Drowsiness
  • Skin rash
  • Constipation
  • Diarrhea
  • Nausea
  • Stomach cramps
  • Vomiting

Very rarely, people who take Zantac experience a severe side effect. For a list of severe side effects associated with Zantac, please see this page from WebMD.

Warnings and Contraindications

Zantac prescribing instructions provide several warnings and contraindications for the drug. A contraindication is a condition indicating a drug should not be used.

Individuals with any of the following should not take 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 adjust Zantac dosage for patients with the following conditions:

  • Lowered kidney function
  • Lowered liver function

Patients should also understand a few other 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.

Zantac can also interact with other drugs patients may take.

Notable Zantac Drug Interactions

Zantac may interact or interfere with any of the following drugs:

  • Procainamide
  • Warfarin
  • Atazanavir
  • Delavirdine
  • Gefitinib
  • Glipizide
  • Ketoconazole
  • Midazolam
  • Triazolam

Physicians and patients should read Zantac’s full prescribing information. Patients should speak with their doctor about potential drug interactions.

Zantac Alternatives

Consumers could have a number of reasons for seeking Zantac alternatives. They may want to avoid the drug due to recent recalls. They may simply want something that works better. No matter the reason, the FDA suggests the following OTC alternatives for Zantac:

  • Nexium (omeprazole)
  • Pepcid (famotidine)
  • Prevacid (lansoprazole)
  • Prilosec (omeprazole)

These four drugs have not been affected by the contamination behind the Zantac recalls. The FDA has tested them independently and confirmed them to be safe alternatives.