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As federal regulators are continuing to evaluate the risk of cancer from Zantac pills distributed with a human carcinogen, CVS has announced that it is removing Zantac and generic ranitidine from store shelves until further notice.
The pharmacy chain issued a press release on September 28, announcing it was suspending the sale of Zantac following the discovery that pills may contain N-nitrosodimethylamine (NDMA), which is a chemical byproduct that has been linked to an increased risk of various types of digestive tract cancers.
CVS indicates that the suspension was put in place while the FDA continues to review the safety of Zantac and its generic versions. While the pharmacy states that the action is not a Zantac recall, consumers who purchased the products can return them for a refund.
NDMA contamination has been a focus for federal health officials, after the presence of the chemical led to massive valsartan recalls last year, impacting most of the U.S. supply for that blood pressure drug. Investigations have since revealed that changes to the manufacturing process for generic versions of valsartan may have caused the contamination, and hundreds of individuals are now pursuing lawsuits indicating that they developed liver cancer, bladder cancer, stomach cancer and other conditions.
It now appears all forms of Zantac were contaminated with NDMA, and early investigations suggest the chemical may have been in the heartburn drug since it was first introduced, potentially exposing millions of users to an increased risk of cancer due to long-term exposure.
The online pharmacy Valisure originally discovered the Zantac NDMA contamination, indicating that it found up to 26,000 times the amount of NDMA that the FDA deems safe to consume in one day. Valisure has filed a citizen’s petition with the FDA, calling for a Zantac recall.
In addition, Sandoz and Apotex have issued Zantac recalls for their generic versions of the heartburn drug, in the aftermath of the FDA warning.
CVS recommends consumers seeking alternate therapy due to the absence of Zantac should talk with their healthcare provider or a CVS pharmacist.
Zantac (ranitidine) was first approved in 1983, and is widely used to treat heartburn with acid indigestion, as well as stomach ulcers, gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) and other stomach acid production problems. It was the first drug to ever bring in revenue in excess of $1 billion, making it the first so-called “blockbuster” drug in history.