When it comes to the treatment of any sort of illness, we trust doctors and medical professionals with our lives and wellbeing. We trust them to do what is right for us and our family. It is, after all, part of the oath that they take. This is why it is such a shock when we find that one of the most popular prescribed treatments out there may be doing more harm than good. It puts an even bigger stain on the already shaky relationship everyday Americans have with healthcare. After all the insurance debacles, long lines, expensive treatments, impersonal doctors who make us feel small and dissected, now their medicines are no good? Aren’t they supposed to be trying to help us? Cases like the most recent Zantac cancer risk shouldn’t be happening. It takes a lot of moving parts to make a debacle like this happen. And if you or a loved one has been affected by this medication, do not stay silent. Here is a comprehensive guide to the current lawsuits, comparative cases, and how you can seek help.
What Is Zantac And Why Is It So Popular?
Zantac, a drug distributed by pharmaceutical giant Sanofi, is the brand name for Ranitidine. It was introduced to the market in 1981. It quickly rose to become the number one selling prescription drug by 1987. It’s marketed as a drug that: relieves heartburn, provides maintenance therapy for duodenal ulcers, provides relief to people with hypersecretion conditions like Zollinger-Ellison syndrome, and, most importantly, was the first line of defense against the ever-present Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). Its main purpose is to decrease the production of stomach acids in our body. It is classified as an H2 histamine receptor agonist and works by blocking histamine from getting to the receptors in your stomach that produce acid. It’s actually a cousin of the popular “antihistamine” class of drugs.
Think of it as a shield that surrounds the acid switch. Its effectiveness and wide-spread use made waves in the medical community. It was even heralded as one of the safest and most effective medicines in modern healthcare, making its way to the World Health Organization’s List of Essential Medicines. In 2016 alone, it clocked in 15 million prescriptions in the United States alone. But even more significant, is that the lower dosages were considered safe over-the-counter sales. Zantac-75 and Zantac-150 can be found on the aisle of every pharmacy nationwide. A big part of its availability was that its only contraindication was developing an allergy to the drug–which was extremely rare.
How Does Zantac Potentially Cause Cancer?
Ranitidine, the generic name for Zantac, is now being investigated for potentially being associated with certain cancers. This came as a surprise, due to its massive presence in the over the counter drug market. In September of 2019, N-nitrosodimethylamine was found in ranitidine from a multitude of drug manufacturers. N-nitrosodimethylamine or NDMA (not to be confused with the popular and illegal MDMA) is a water-soluble liver toxin. It’s recognized as an extremely volatile substance that can also affect a number of other organs if ingested in large amounts. NDMA is actually a very well known and studied animal carcinogen in the science world. It’s so effective, in fact, that it is used in the laboratory research setting to induce cancer in rats for clinical trials.
That’s right, the substance scientists use to purposefully give rats cancer was found in a drug that sits on every shelf in every pharmacy. But in humans, it’s still classified by the EPA as a Group B2 “probable human carcinogen.” But with the latest test findings, that can very well possibly change. The limited data regarding it as a human carcinogen is due to it being ingested with many other compounds in a mixture. But mathematical models have deemed it to be fairly benign in scenarios relating to inhalation of the compound. The risk posed upon ingestion is still being looked into. The Food and Drug Administration is still evaluating whether the levels found in ranitidine preparations pose a risk to patients.
How Does Something Like This Happen?
So how does something like this happen? NDMA is a byproduct of many manufacturing processes and one probably scenario the FDA is setting its sights on is facility downturns in both foreign and local production. The FDA has the extremely challenging job of inspecting a multi-trillion dollar supply chain of pharmaceuticals. Within that supply chain, 80 percent of the materials and ingredients are manufactured overseas and 40 percent of finished products come from abroad as well.
Over the years, the FDA has found and blocked countless potential hazards from entering the United States. For example, the FDA put a halt on certain Chinese milk products that were found to contain melamine, a highly toxic substance in 2008. Manufacturers were purposefully adding melamine to milk to increase its nitrogen content and, therefore, test higher for protein, thus lowering the production cost. But a second scenario, as discovered by laboratories this 2019, is one that is much more sinister.
Who Found Out About The Cancer Link?
A team of scientists in a Connecticut lab called Valisure tested drugs from its own online pharmacy to ensure quality and purity. This is a common practice nowadays due to an increased demand for third-party testing. In doing so, they uncovered the high NDMA levels and reported it to the FDA. While the FDA is putting its due diligence towards investigating facility contamination, Valisure’s CEO David Light isn’t convinced. In a recent interview, Light told CBS news that Ranitidine is a “fundamentally unstable molecule” and under “condition of the human body–it can break down and form the carcinogen NDMA.”
This isn’t a novel idea, of course. This was also proposed by research published by Syracuse’s Teng Zeng and his colleague, Stanford’s William Mitch three years ago. Their studies were small and, therefore, held little weight. 10 volunteers were given a tablet of Zantac and had their urine was tested for NDMA. Their tested levels reached up to 400 times over what the FDA considers safe. When the FDA picked up on Valisure’s testing, they concluded that the current NDMA in Zantac is: “unacceptable.”
Who Is Responsible For This Mishap?
Sanofi, the makers of Zantac, has been purportedly working very closely with the FDA. They, of course, dismiss the tests that Valisure, William Mitch, and Teng Zeng have done. But the question remains: shouldn’t the big drug companies have their own purity testing protocols? They have untold millions at their disposal and the most advanced testing options on the market today. With NDMA being a known toxic substance–to the point where the FDA has to deem it “acceptable” or “unacceptable,” how did dangerous levels get past batch and lot testing?
According to Current Good Manufacturing Practices, a comprehensive laboratory analysis is to be submitted to the FDA, the parameters of which can be set by the manufacturer themselves. This poses a potential gap in reporting that many are calling irresponsible, and rightfully so. There have been multiple studies linking this product to cancerous compounds dating back to the 1980s. Most never made the light of day. It’s only now in the age of disseminated information that independent scientists outside of the world of big pharma can present their findings to an informed public. And if manufacturers of ranitidine knowingly put out a dangerous product, one that has been independently tested and connected with cancer-causing agents over the past 3 years, that’s grounds for some very serious legal inquiries.
What Kind Of Cancer Can NDMA Cause?
Cancer has been a confounding disease and continues to baffle the global community as a whole. Today, so many things seem to cause it that it becomes difficult to point to a single culprit. But there are cases, such as with persistent use of a product, that one can narrow it down to a resounding conclusion. If you were taking Zantac regularly and developed types of cancer associated with the contaminant NMDA, that may be the smoking gun to your predicament. With mounting evidence supporting its probable role in the disease, one cannot ignore it any longer. Associated cancers are likely that within the gastrointestinal tract and the liver.
Some that may be related include: bladder cancer, stomach cancer, colon cancer, pancreatic cancer, intestinal cancer, kidney cancer, and liver cancer. These are all extremely serious and potentially life-threatening. Not only that, they constitute a good chunk of cancer diagnoses all across the nation.
What Is Being Done About It?
As of October of 2019, multiple generics manufacturers have willfully started a recall of their products. These include big generics players like Apotex and Novaris/Sandoz. They decided that, in light of the NDMA story, the risk is not worth it. Other companies like Sanofi have not put in a recall. In fact, the makers of Zantac are doubling down on their narrative and are continuing to sell their products to this day. The FDA has not called a halt to its sale, nor have they advised against taking this drug. This is a major red flag that consumers and patients should not take lightly. They issued the cut and paste statement of: “We take patient safety seriously.”
Whether that’s true or not, their product is still being sold. There’s even a pop-up on Zantac’s website stating that they can still sell their product. Most recently, major distributors CVS and Walgreens have stepped in and pulled the product from there over the counter selection. This includes both Zantac and their generic formulations. This tells us that even if there are larger batch testing going on, major distributors can see the oncoming backlash and are getting ahead of the curve. These companies significant amounts of money selling Zantac. This move, if anything, may serve as a window for things to come.
What Can We Do?
If you or anyone in your family has been diagnosed with any of the cancers mentioned above, you should seek legal council immediately. Speaking to a lawyer can help you prove that you have a case against the makers of Zantac. Falling victim to a giant company’s greed game is not something any person deserves. The mounting and growing cost for treatment and maintenance because of big pharma’s refusal to affect their bottom line is just plain criminal. So get in touch with a law firm that you feel comfortable with, preferably the best in your area.
For instance, if you live around Las Vegas, seek advice from the best personal injury lawyer Las Vegas has to offer. They can put together pieces on a local level that can help and add to your case. This eliminates any sort of miscommunication or confusion you may run into by jumping into an impersonal class-action lawsuit by yourself.
Are There Any Zantac Alternatives?
If you still suffer from any of the symptoms that Zantac claims to alleviate, know that there are plenty of other options that are out there that are safe and recommended. The popular proton pump inhibitor Omeprazole has been known to match Zantac in the relief of symptoms, and even outperform it in other metrics. In repeated studies all over the world, Omeprazole has been shown to suppress stomach acid production better than Zantac. In a study of 144 people, patients with severe inflammation or ulcers of the esophagus were treated with Omeprazole or Zantac. 85% of the Omeprazole group healed within 8 weeks.
Only 50% of the people given Zantac healed completely within the same timeframe. Clearly, as many doctors would advise today, Omeprazole is a better choice for acute esophageal inflammation. In fact, it has grown so much in popularity that it’s being prescribed and recommended more than it’s a less effective competitor. And with the recent lawsuits, it is the best overall treatment for upper gastrointestinal issues.
The controversy surrounding Zantac and its generic names has grown from murmurs in the science world to an all-out public concern. These subpar practices and loose dealings with our health is completely unacceptable. We put our trust and our lives into these complex systems that we have no say in. How is the public supposed to know what’s good for them? That has to change. If you or your loved ones have been diagnosed with cancer, and there’s a possible link to Zantac, please seek legal advice. It is one of the few ways big pharma can be held accountable.