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Amid growing concerns about potential links between link between Zantac and cancer, following the discovery of carcinogenic chemicals in the widely used heartburn pills, Walgreens and Rite Aid have joined a number of other major retailers remove brand-name and generic versions of the drug from store shelves.
According to reports from multiple media outlets, the pharmacy chains will stop selling Zantac and ranitidine products. The decision comes after CVS announced earlier this week that it is removing Zantac from stores while the FDA continues to investigate findings that pills contain N-nitrosodimethylamine (NDMA), which is a chemical byproduct that has been linked to an increased risk of various types of digestive tract cancers.
The sales suspensions come after a warning issued by federal regulators last month, and decisions by a number of manufacturers to halt production or issue Zantac recalls.
NDMA has been linked to hundreds of reports involving liver cancer, stomach cancer, colorectal cancer and other digestive tract cancers following massive valsartan recalls issued last year, when it was discovered that most of the U.S. supply for that blood pressure drug was tainted with the chemical.
While investigations suggest that the valsartan problems were linked to changes in the generic drug manufacturing process, it now appears that all forms of the heartburn drug Zantac may result in high levels of NDMA in the human body, 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 problems, 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.
CVS, Walgreens and Rite Aid have each said they will keep Zantac off store shelves at least until the FDA finishes a safety review of the NDMA contamination.
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.