Pfizer Settles 10,000 Zantac Cancer Lawsuits in Latest Deal To Resolve Claims Over Recalled Heartburn Drug

A Zantac recall in 2019 has led to years of litigation against several different drug makers, over cancer-causing chemicals in the widely used heartburn drug.

Another pharmaceutical company appears to have agreed to settle thousands of Zantac cancer lawsuits, as the first cases begin actually going before juries over several different drug makers’ failure to warn that the active ingredient may convert to a cancer-causing chemical during storage or while the drug passes through the body.

Bloomberg News reports that Pfizer has reached a Zantac settlement agreement that would resolve 10,000 over the company’s role in distributing versions of the drug with cancer-causing chemicals. However, the company has not confirmed the deal, nor were details about the settlement amount made available. The report was based on anonymous sources reportedly familiar with the litigation.

If confirmed, the deal would comes just weeks after Sanofi announced a similar agreement to settle 4,000 Zantac cancer lawsuits for more than $100 million. It also comes as the first Zantac trial is underway in Chicago against GlaxoSmithKline and Boehringer Ingelheim, involving claims brought by a former users who developed colorectal cancer.

Zantac Cancer Lawsuits

Zantac (ranitidine) was used by millions of Americans for treatment of heartburn and acid reflux, before it was removed from the market in late 2019, following the discovery that the active pharmaceutical ingredient is inherently unstable and produces high levels of the chemical byproduct N-Nitrosodimethylamine (NDMA), which is a potent human carcinogen.

In the wake of the recall, GlaxoSmithKline, Boehringer Ingelheim Pfizer, Sanofi and various other manufacturers, distributors, and retailers have faced more than 80,000 Zantac lawsuits brought throughout the U.S., including claims brought by former users who indicate were diagnosed with bladder cancer, liver cancer, pancreatic cancer, stomach cancer and other injuries after taking brand name Zantac or one of its generic equivalents.

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Zantac Lawsuits

Side effects of Zantac may increase the risk of cancer, due to chemical impurities found in the heartburn drug.

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For several years, most of the litigation was focused in the federal court system, where all Zantac cancer lawsuits were centralized before Judge Robin L. Rosenberg in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida, for coordinated discovery and pretrial proceedings. However, in 2022 Judge Rosenberg issued a controversial ruling, determining that all of the plaintiffs’ expert witnesses were excluded from testifying at trial under federal evidentiary rules.

While appeals have been filed to challenge Judge Rosenberg’s ruling, the decision has left federal plaintiffs without any means of proving the recalled Zantac pills caused their cancer, and all Zantac lawsuits pending in the federal court system have been dismissed. However, the federal ruling did not have any impact on lawsuits filed in Illinois, Delaware and various other state courts, where different standards for the admissibility of expert witness testimony apply.

Over the last year, several individual state court lawsuits were scheduled to go to trial, but Zantac settlements were reached in each case before the case could go before a jury. GlaxoSmithKline reached Zantac settlement agreements in two such cases earlier this year.

Pfizer Zantac Settlement

According to Bloomberg News, the Pfizer Zantac lawsuit settlement will resolve more than 10,000 claims against the pharmaceutical company, but will not resolve all of the state court lawsuits the drug maker is involved in.

The company would only tell Bloomberg that it has settled certain cases and will continue to explore opportunities to resolve more. However, it would not confirm or deny any terms of the Zantac settlement being reported.

The company notes that it stopped selling Zantac 15 years ago, and that it was only involved with manufacturing the drug for a limited time.

Not factoring in this latest reported settlement, there about 72,000 claims remaining, mostly in Delaware state court, where Judge Vivian Medinilla is currently weighing whether Zantac cases in that state should be dismissed on similar grounds as the federal cases, following hearings held in January. Her decision could determine whether the bulk of Zantac lawsuits filed in that state move forward.

Much like the federal cases, if manufacturers can convince Judge Medinilla to exclude all of the plaintiffs’ expert witnesses, it would effectively kill the litigation in that venue, where most claims have been filed since the federal MDL was dismissed.

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