The Zantac recall
Weeks after the popular heartburn drug ranitidine, known by the brand name Zantac, was found to contain a cancer-causing chemical, multiple drugstores have decided to no longer sell the medication.
Countries have even banned the importation of the drug and in some places, it has been removed from the drug list.
These chain of events came after the FDA reported that small amounts of a cancer-causing chemical called N-nitrosodimethylamine (NDMA) were detected in several brand-name and generic heartburn medications. Contamination of ranitidine formulations is a problem because the World Health Organisation lists NDMA as a probable carcinogen, meaning it may cause cancer.
It is important to note most people are exposed to NDMA as part of their normal lives. NDMA can be found in cooked and smoked meats, from smoking cigarettes, beer, and even some toiletry and cosmetic products.
This development will affect the many people who regularly use ranitidine medications to prevent and treat heartburn, ulcers, and gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). Ranitidine is a popularly used medication and its results in treating these conditions have been positive.
The development around this is unfolding quickly and many details remain murky. However, the FDA along with other competent authorities are working to investigate what effect this may have had or can have on human health.
If you are currently taking this medication to treat the conditions mentioned, there will be some concerns. If you are taking the medicine and it works for you and you wish to keep taking it, there isno immediate health risk. The only issue is from long-term use and could mean a possible increase in your risk of cancer later in life. However, I would highly recommend that its use be discontinued until all the studies and investigations have been completed and the exact risk and impact on health is known.
Persons who have other risk factors exposure such as smoking, excessive alcohol consumption etc. should be extremely careful and may want to consider switching to another medication.
There are numerous alternatives available. Other medication exists and are as effective in treating these conditions. If you do wish to stop taking ranitidine, your pharmacist or health care provider will be able to recommend other medicines that may be effective for you.
Dr. Rosmond Adams, MD; MSc (Public Health); M.S (Bioethics) is a medical doctor and a public health specialist with training in bioethics and ethical issues in medicine, the life sciences and research. He is a lecturer of medical ethics and Research Methods.
He is the Head of Health Information, Communicable Disease and Emergency Response at the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA). He is also a member of the World Health Organization Global Coordination Mechanism on the Prevention and Control of NCDs.