After initially telling consumers that they could continue taking Zantac, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has issued a new warning. Now, all prescription and over-the-counter medications containing ranitidine are being recalled because of a cancer risk.
The move comes after a lengthy examination into the heartburn drugs. The FDA found unsafe levels of a compound called N-Nitrosodimethylamine, or NDMA. This contaminant is known to be carcinogenic.
The FDA also revealed that the “impurity in some ranitidine products increases over time and when stored at higher than room temperatures.”
Last year, independent laboratory testing found NDMA in ranitidine drugs. Although this compound is found in a variety of sources, including food and water, the concentration in the drugs was concerning.
Prolonged exposure to NDMA at higher levels can increase the risk of developing cancer.
Initially, the FDA deemed that patients and doctors should look into alternative heartburn treatments. However, the agency did not tell consumers to stop taking the drug. That changed this week.
Dangerous Levels of NDMA
Further testing revealed that NDMA levels increase over time. Drugs that were tested soon after being manufactured had lower levels than the same drugs that had been stored for longer–especially if they were stored in higher temperature environments, such as a warehouse.
The FDA is now telling consumers to stop taking their over-the-counter medications containing ranitidine.
“[S]top taking any tablets or liquid they currently have, dispose of them properly and not buy more; for those who wish to continue treating their condition, they should consider using other approved OTC products,” the agency advised.
In addition, the FDA warns patients taking prescription ranitidine medications should talk to their doctor to find an alternate solution. Check to see if your healthcare provider offers telemedicine, rather than making an appointment to go into an office during the coronavirus pandemic.
Alternatives to Zantac
The FDA also tested other heartburn medications on the market and found that they did not contain NDMA. The following medications are not part of this recall and may be a good alternative if you currently take Zantac:
- famotidine (Pepcid)
- cimetidine (Tagamet)
- esomeprazole (Nexium)
- lansoprazole (Prevacid)
- omeprazole (Prilosec)
What to Do Next
The FDA advises that you do not try to return the medication to the place where you bought it because of the pandemic. Instead, follow their guidelines on how to safely dispose of medicine.
If at all possible, manage your acid reflux with a combination of diet changes and one of the over-the-counter drugs listed above. Under no circumstances should you continue taking Zantac.