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Years of exposure to the chemical byproduct N-nitrosodimenthylamine (NDMA) in Zantac caused a Florida man to develop tonsil cancer, according to a lawsuit recently filed against makers of the recalled heartburn drug.
The complaint (PDF) was brought by Charles York in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida on October 9, alleging that Sanofi and Boehringer Ingelheim sold a defective and dangerous medication, which was unfit for human consumption.
Zantac (ranitidine) was one of the most widely used heartburn and acid reflux medications for decades, until all versions were pulled from the market after it was discovered last year that the active pharmaceutical ingredient may convert to high levels of the cancer-causing chemical.
York indicates he began taking Zantac in 1997, and regularly ingested the drug an average of four to five times per week for more than a decade, until he was diagnosed with tonsil cancer in 2009. As a result of the cancer, York required surgery that year and again in 2018.
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.
“Despite notice and knowledge that ranitidine products, including Zantac, contained unsafe levels of NDMA which can cause cancer and other severe health problems, Defendants continued to market and sell ranitidine products, including Zantac, without warning consumers, healthcare providers, and/or the FDA of these significant risks” the lawsuit states. “Consumers, including Plaintiff and Plaintiff’s physicians, relied on the Defendants’ false representations and were misled as to Zantac’s safety.”
The lawsuit directly ties York’s use of Zantac to his tonsil cancer diagnosis, which typically causes difficulty swallowing and the feeling something is caught in your throat. If undetected, it can spread to the tongue and nearby lymph nodes. The overall five-year survival rate is 65%.
The case joins a growing number of similar Zantac lawsuits filed throughout the U.S. court system, alleging that long-term users developed stomach cancer, esophageal cancer, breast cancer, kidney cancer and other injuries.
As Zantac recall lawyers continue to review and file claims in the coming weeks and months, it is expected that tens of thousands of claims will be filed by individuals throughout the U.S.
To deal with the increasing complaints being filed throughout the federal court system, the U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation recently ordered all Zantac claims be centralized and consolidated in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida, where the litigation will be overseen by U.S. District Judge Robin L. Rosenberg during coordinated discovery and pretrial proceedings.