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A California judge has appointed attorneys from six law firms to serve in leadership positions during the consolidated proceedings established in the state court system for all Zantac lawsuits filed by individuals who developed cancer following use of the recalled heartburn drug.
Sanofi, GlaxoSmithKline, Boehringer Ingelheim and other drug manufacturers, distributors and retailers face more than 70,000 potential product liability lawsuits brought throughout the U.S. over the past two years, following the discovery that the active ingredient in Zantac converts to high levels of a potent human carcinogen as it passes through the body or while it is being stored at higher temperatures. However, as Zantac recall lawyers continue to review and file claims against manufacturers of the recalled heartburn drug over the coming months and years, the number of claims is expected to continue to grow.
Each of the complaints raise similar allegations, indicating the active ingredient in Zantac, ranitidine, produces high levels of the known human carcinogen Nitrosodimethylamine (NDMA). Although the drug makers allegedly knew ranitidine was inherently unstable, they continued to market and sell the drug as a safe treatment, exposing users throughout the U.S. to an increased risk of cancer, according to the lawsuits.
While most of the complaints have been filed in the federal court system, where consolidated pretrial proceedings have been established in the Southern District of Florida, a number of cases have also been brought in California state courts, where Judge Winifred Smith has been appointed to preside over a Judicial Counsel Coordination Proceeding (JCCP) in Alameda County. That court is currently handling 62 complaints representing 1,078 plaintiffs.
On June 15, Judge Smith issued an order establishing the leadership structure for the state court litigation, according to a press release issued by one of the Zantac law firms appointed.
Attorneys serving in these leadership roles will perform various tasks during the discovery process and meetings with the Court, including arguing motions, taking depositions of common witnesses, reviewing discovery documents and other actions. However, each plaintiff will still maintain their own lawyer to represent their specific interests in their claims against Zantac manufacturers.
Zantac Cancer Risks
The litigation over Zantac may become one of the largest active mass tort claims over the next few years, given the widespread use of the heartburn and acid reflux drug for decades before it was removed from the market late last year.
Public concerns about the Zantac cancer risk first emerged in September 2019, when an online pharmacy discovered that each pill may expose users to levels of NDMA that are drastically higher than the permissible and safe. The FDA has previously found that the daily safe limit for NDMA exposure is only 96 nanograms (ng). However, pills tested by the independent pharmacy found that users may be exposed to more than 3 million nanograms from each Zantac pill.
Investigations have confirmed the problems were not caused by contamination or changes in the manufacturing process, but appear to be part of the inherent molecular structure of the active pharmaceutical ingredient in Zantac, ranitidine.
Plaintiffs allege the manufacturers of Zantac knew or should have known about these problems for decades, yet aggressively marketed and sold brand-name prescription, generic and over-the-counter versions of Zantac for years, without warning users that it may cause them to develop cancer.
If the parties fail to reach Zantac settlements or another resolution for the cases following discovery and bellwether trials at the federal and state level, thousands of individual cases may end up remanded back to courts nationwide for individual trial dates in the coming years.