Heartburn drug recalled globally over cancer fears: All you need to know

Several countries across the world have already removed Zantac from shelves, or are about to. ISTOCK
Several countries across the world have already removed Zantac from shelves, or are about to. ISTOCK
Several countries are removing a popular drug from pharmacy shelves over fears it may contain a carcinogen.

What’s happening?

A major heartburn drug has been recalled in several countries across the world over fears it may be linked to cancer.

The brand Zantac is being investigated over possible impurities, along with other products containing ranitidine.

Canada and France have already issued nationwide recalls, while the US and the European Union are may follow suit.

According to the BBC, recalls were “underway or pending” in several other countries including Australia and many European nations.

Health authorities say there is no immediate risk, but are advising people to speak to their doctor about prescribing alternative drugs to ranitidine.

The original manufacturers of Zantac, GlaxoSmithKline, are said to have stopped distributing the generic version of the drug and recalled products from India and Hong Kong, the BBC reports.

Major US retailer CVS has suspended sales of Zantac. 

What are the fears?

The recalls have been issued because of the possible presence of N-nitrosodimethylamine (NDMA) in medicines that contain the drug ranitidine.

NDMA is deemed a possible human carcinogen, meaning it can cause cancer, based on studies on animals.

What is ranitidine?

Ranitidine products are used to reduce levels of stomach acid in order to treat conditions such as heartburn and stomach ulcers.

They are available over-the-counter and on prescription.

What should I do?

Health regulators are advising people who are currently taking a ranitidine product not to discontinue use immediately, but rather speak to their doctor regarding alternative medications.

French authorities, despite recalling Zantac from pharmacy shelves, have said there is no “acute risk” from the drug.

However, those buying ranitidine products over the counter are urged to consider other options.


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