If you are like millions of other Americans, you have some kind of stomach problems. And you likely take Zantac, either by prescription or in its over-the-counter form, to treat them. Now is the time to stop and switch to a different medication. Why? Because scientific studies have shown that ranitidine, Zantac’s generic name, contains high levels of N-nitrosodimethylamine (NOMA), a probable carcinogen. In other words, the Zantac cancer risk is very high.
Unfortunately, Zantac has been the most popular heartburn and stomach ailment medication for decades. In any given year, doctors write over 15 million prescriptions for it. Millions more of us buy it over-the-counter.
Removal From Store Shelves
You may have noticed that it is becoming more and more difficult to find Zantac in stores and pharmacies. No, this is not due to the current Covid-19 pandemic that has made many things harder to get. Instead, the disappearance of Zantac from store shelves is due to the fact that many stores, including the following, have voluntarily stopped carrying it:
- Rite Aid
Actually, Sanofi, the company that manufactures Zantac, voluntarily recalled this product late last year. Novartis, Sandoz, Apotex, Appco Pharma LLC, and Aurobindo Pharma USA, companies that manufacture ranitidine products under a variety of names, have likewise voluntarily recalled their products.
The Food and Drug Administration finally called for a nationwide recall of all prescription and OTC ratitidine medications on April 1, 2020.
Danger Your Zantac “Stash” Poses
If you have been hoarding Zantac as it has become harder to buy, you are putting yourself in danger and should immediately dispose of your entire supply. Why? Because the Zantac cancer risk has been shown to increase when the product is exposed to higher than normal temperatures.
Thus, if you have had your Zantac for a while and stored some of it, for example, in your car for easy access while driving, it most definitely has been exposed to high temperatures. Storage in your medicine cabinet likewise exposes Zantac to high temperatures since bathrooms are notoriously hot, steamy places. Kitchen cabinet storage offers no safety either for the same reason.
Nor can you assume that your Zantac is safe to consume if you’re quite sure your supply has never encountered particularly high temperatures. The problem is that you have no idea how it was stored during transport from the manufacturer to the store where you bought it.
Keep in mind that the Zantac cancer risk is not limited to Zantac itself. Store brands such as Walmart’s Equate and CVS’s Health brands pose the same risk. In fact, any medication that contains ranitidine can and likely does contain the carcinogen N-Nitrosodimethylamine (NDMA).
N-Nitrosodimethylamine (NDMA) is a carcinogenic contaminant found naturally in the environment. Foods such as dairy products, vegetables, and grilled meats — even water — can naturally contain small amounts of NDMA. Researchers theorize that ranitidine is likely an unstable product given to breaking down and forming NDMA in the process. Another theory is that ranitidine products produced in other countries and exported to the US are subject to lax quality control standards that allow the contaminant to sneak in.
The good news is that you face less risk the shorter period of time you have taken Zantac or other ranitidine-containing medications.
The other good news as Zantac becomes a product of the past is that safe alternatives do exist to ranitidine-containing medications. Two types of them, in fact: proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) and H2 histamine receptor antagonists. Well-known PPIs include the following:
- Esomeprazole (Nexium)
- Lansoprazole (Prevacid)
- Omeprazole (Prilosec)
As for H2 histamine receptor antagonists, Famotidine (Pepcid) and Cimetidine (Tagamet) both serve as viable alternatives to Zantac.
Discuss your stomach problems with your doctor and ask him or her if you should switch to one of the above medications.