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Manufacturers of the recently recalled heartburn drug Zantac have removed a product liability lawsuit originally filed in Nebraska state court to the federal court system, where it will be consolidated with a growing number of similar Zantac claims being pursued by former users diagnosed with cancer in recent years.
The complaint was brought by Jason Van Ostberg on June 20, claiming that he developed prostate cancer and liver cancer following years of exposure to the cancer-causing chemical byproduct N-nitrosodimenthylamine (NDMA), which it has recently been discovered is released by the active ingredient in Zantac, ranitidine.
In a notice of removal (PDF) filed on July 16, the drug makers Sanofi- Aventis, Chattem, Inc., and Boehringer Ingelheim indicate that the case falls under federal jurisdiction and should be consolidated with at least 300 other similar claims current centralized as part of a multidistrict litigation (MDL) in the Southern District of Florida.
Zantac (ranitidine) has been marketed for decades as a safe and effective treatment for heartburn, which was sold both as a prescription and over-the-counter treatment. However, after it was discovered late last year that pills contained high levels of NDMA, Zantac recalls have been issued for most versions of the drug.
NDMA used to be a chemical byproduct of making rocket fuel in the early 1990s. However, today, its only use is to cause cancer in animals as part of laboratory experiments.
While FDA standards have established that maximum human daily exposure to NDMA should be only 96 nanograms, testing has found that some 150 mg Zantac pills contain more than 3 million nanograms of NDMA. Exposure to the Zantac ingredient has been linked to reports of breast cancer, kidney cancer, leukemia and other cancers, raising widespread concerns among long-term users of the drug.
Ostberg’s lawsuit was removed to the U.S. District Court for the District of Nebraska, where it will be transferred to the Southern District of Florida for coordinated handing by U.S. District Judge Robin L. Rosenberg, who is presiding over the MDL proceedings.
As Zantac recall lawyers continue to review and file claims in the coming weeks and months, it is widely expected that the litigation will ultimately involve thousands of complaints brought by individuals diagnosed with breast cancer, testicular cancer, kidney cancer, bladder cancer and other injuries that may have resulted from NDMA released by ranitidine.