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According to allegations raised in a recently filed product liability lawsuits,the side effects of Zantac caused a Virginia woman to develop esophageal cancer, due to carcinogenic chemicals produced by the recalled heartburn drug.
Deborah Haskins filed the complaint (PDF) in the U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey on January 3, indicating that ranitidine in Zantac resulted in high levels of the cancer-causing agent N-Nitrosodimethylamine (NDMA), causing esophageal cancer after taking at least one 75 mg tablet per day for several years.
Zantac (ranitidine) was one of the best selling drugs in history, becoming the first medication to surpass $1 billion in annual sales in 1988, and it continued to be widely used, both over-the-counter and as generic ranitidine, until most versions were pulled from the market last year, due to concerns about the risk of cancer.
According to allegations raised in the lawsuit filed by Haskins, the chemical structure of ranitidine in Zantac is inherently unstable, and may form extremely high levels of NDMA when inside the human body.
“As a direct and proximate result of ingesting Zantac, Plaintiff contracted Esophageal Cancer,” the lawsuit states. “Had Plaintiff been informed that taking Zantac would expose her to unsafe quantities of NDMA such that it could and did cause her to contract Esophageal Cancer, she never would have purchased or ingested Zantac.”
Esophageal cancer develops in the esophagus, and is the sixth most common cause of cancer death worldwide, resulting in severe swallowing problems, weight loss, chest pain, worsening heartburn, and coughing. In advanced stages it can cause obstruction of the esophagus, pain, and bleeding.
The complaint filed by Haskins joins dozens of similar Zantac cancer lawsuits filed in recent months, each involving nearly identical allegations that exposure to NDMA produced by the heartburn drug resulted in various forms of cancer along the digestive tract, including esophageal cancer, stomach cancer, bladder cancer, colorectal cancer, liver cancer, kidney cancer and other diseases.
While multiple manufacturers have issued Zantac recalls since September 2019, many consumers remain unaware that cancer diagnosed in recent years may have been caused by the heartburn drug, which has been on the market since 1986.
The public was not informed about the high levels of NDMA produced by Zantac until September 2019, when an independent pharmacy conducted testing that found each pill may result in levels of exposure that are substantially higher than the permissible daily intake limit for NDMA set by the FDA.
To deal with the growing number of complaints being filed throughout the federal court system, the U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation is scheduled to hear oral arguments later this month to determine whether the claim should be centralized before one judge for coordinated discovery and pretrial proceedings.
All parties have agreed that the claims should be consolidated as part of a federal MDL, or multidistrict litigation, to avoid duplicative discovery, conflicting pretrial rulings and to serve the convenience of common witnesses and parties, as well as the judicial system.