Consumer News

Can Heartburn Drugs Lead To Cancer?

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has found that some commonly-used heartburn medications are contaminated with a cancer-causing impurity. Officials already issued a warning about the use of ranitidine drugs, including the brand Zantac. 

Ranitidine is used for reducing stomach acid production. The FDA said the medication appeared with low levels of nitrosamine impurity, called N-nitrosodimethylamine (NDMA).

Exposure to NDMA can damage the liver. Studies also found that high levels of nitrosamine impurity in the body could contribute to the development of tumors in the bladder, kidney, liver, pancreas and the tongue. 

However, the FDA noted people should not stop taking ranitidine “at this time.” The investigation and additional tests are still ongoing to confirm the contamination of all ranitidine products, Fox 8 News reported

“At this time there are no company recalls and FDA is not urging companies to recall,” FDA spokesman Jeremy Kahn said. “So far, NDMA has been found in ranitidine in low levels and we are not calling for consumers and patients to stop taking ranitidine at this time.” 

The FDA said it has yet to determine the exact number of heartburn medications affected by the impurity. The agency is working with industry partners and international regulators to find the source of the ranitidine impurity.

But the people who wish to discontinue using ranitidine can take alternatives. There are other prescription and over-the-counter drugs that can treat heartburn, stomach ulcers and other stomach acid-related problems.

It is important to talk to a doctor before taking other medications to replace ranitidine. 

Common Drugs and Cancer

It is not the first time that the government discovered impurities in commonly used medications. In 2018, the FDA found some blood pressure and heart failure medicines containing NDMA and other impurities.  

The agency recalled a number of drugs due to “unacceptable levels” of nitrosamines in drugs containing valsartan. 

Meanwhile, Sanofi, manufacturer of Zantac, issued a statement about the ranitidine impurity. The company said it will work with federal officials to avoid potential recalls. 

“Sanofi takes patient safety seriously, and we are committed to working with the FDA,” Sanofi said in a statement. “Zantac OTC (over the counter) has been around for over a decade and meets all the specified safety requirements for use in the OTC market.” 

medications A man holds pills and medications ahead of therapy. Pixabay