In September 2019, the FDA announced that ranitidine (Zantac), prescribed for heartburn, contained low levels of N-nitrosodimethylamine (NDMA), which is considered to be a likely human carcinogen.
Drug companies that have recalled their ranitidine products include Novartis and Apotex. Drugstore chain Walgreens is pulling Zantac and other ranitidine-based products off its shelves.
FDA made the announcement after a pharmacy based in Connecticut discovered traces of NDMA in different medicinal formulations containing ranitidine.
Canada and France too have taken steps to get ranitidine off the shelves. According to Health Canada, “current evidence suggests that NDMA may be present in ranitidine, regardless of the manufacturer.”
NDMA is found in dairy products, water, and other foods. It is found in grilled and charred meat. NDMA has been classified as a possible carcinogen based on animal studies. It is worth noting that NDMA in ranitidine has not been shown to have any immediate harmful effects upon consumption. The risk of cancer, in all probability, is associated with high doses over an extended period.
While the recall has been initiated by drug companies, the FDA has not issued any advisory calling for individuals to stop taking ranitidine. Patients taking ranitidine for a short term are likely safe. But if you’ve been taking Zantac for a while then you may want consult your doctor. You may be prescribed another H2 blocker. Thus far, other H2 blockers have not been shown to carry any traces of NDMA; these include Pepcid (famotidine), Tagamet (cimetidine), Prevacid (lansoprazole), and Prilosec (omeprazole). It’s also a good idea to introduce some lifestyle changes that may include exercise, cardiovascular training, and consuming less spicy food to control heartburn.
This FDA page is updated regularly on this topic – https://www.fda.gov/drugs/drug-safety-and-availability/fda-updates-and-press-announcements-ndma-zantac-ranitidine.