The best of EcoWatch, right in your inbox. Sign up for our email newsletter!
CVS and Walgreens Stop Selling Zantac After Cancer-Causing Chemical Detected
By Julia Ries
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.
CVS and Walgreens will no longer sell Zantac and other ranitidine medications, as the heartburn drugs might contain substances that could cause cancer.
Even though Zantac hasn't officially been recalled, CVS is currently offering customers who recently bought Zantac or another ranitidine drug a refund. The chain will continue to sell other over-the-counter heartburn medications, like Pepcid and Tagamet, which don't contain ranitidine.
Although Sanofi, the company that owns Zantac, hasn't issued a recall, the drug companies Apotex Corp. and Sandoz Inc. announced they're voluntarily recalling all of their ranitidine-based products sold in the U.S. due to the risk.
Potentially Harmful Chemical Detected
About two weeks ago, the FDA reported small amounts of a cancer-causing chemical called N-nitrosodimethylamine (NDMA) were detected in several brand-name and generic heartburn medications.
Even though the FDA identified the carcinogen, the organization isn't yet recommending people stop taking ranitidine products.
This affects the many people who regularly use ranitidine medications to prevent and treat heartburn, ulcers and gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD).
The FDA is investigating whether the low levels found in the ranitidine medicines create a health risk.
Once the FDA has that information, it'll share it. But for now, the agency isn't recommending people stop taking ranitidine.
"Although NDMA may cause harm in large amounts, the levels the FDA is finding in ranitidine from preliminary tests barely exceed amounts you might expect to find in common foods," Dr. Janet Woodcock, the director of the FDA's Center for Drug Evaluation and Research, said in a statement.
You Don't Need to, but You Can Switch Drugs
Sanofi, the company that makes Zantac, is cooperating with the FDA to ensure the drug is safe for consumers.
"Sanofi takes patient safety seriously and we are committed to working with the FDA. Zantac OTC (over the counter) has been around for over a decade and meets all the specified safety requirements for use in the OTC market," a Sanofi spokesperson told Healthline in an earlier statement.
If you take a medication with ranitidine, you might want to consider opting for a different drug — though it's not necessary at this time.
Cimetidine, known as Tagamet, and famotidine, or Pepcid, are two other types of OTC medications commonly used to treat heartburn and acid reflux.
If you have a prescription, your doctor can recommend another treatment option.
"While Zantac may prove safe in the long run, this latest statement adds confusion and concern so my interim advice to patients is simple: switch to another drug (there are other options), and of course confirm with your doctor the need for an antacid," Dr. David Robbins, the associate chief of endoscopy at Lenox Hill Hospital, said in statement.
Dr. Linda Nguyen, a gastroenterologist at Stanford Health Care in California, has similar advice.
"According to the FDA alert, the issue does not appear to be related to the drug class but due to contaminants specific to ranitidine," Nguyen told Healthline.
"Ranitidine is an H2 (histamine-2) blocker that decreases the acidity in the stomach. It is frequently used for heartburn and dyspepsia (stomach upset or indigestion). Ranitidine is available over the counter and [by] prescription. There are alternative H2 blockers available in the U.S., including famotidine (Pepcid) or cimetidine (Tagamet). Patients should consult with their clinician or pharmacist for equivalent dose conversions," Nguyen said.
What Is NDMA?
NDMA is an environmental contaminant found in water along with meat, dairy and vegetables.
It's classified as a B2 carcinogen, meaning it's a probable human carcinogen. Exposure to high amounts of NDMA is thought to cause gastric or colorectal cancer, according to the World Health OrganizationTrusted Source.
It's extremely toxic to the liver. Even small amounts may be linked to liver damage.
The chemical was once used to make rocket fuel. Today, the chemical is only used for research purposes in the U.S., according to the Environmental Protection Agency.
The chlorination of drinking and wastewater, which treatment plants do to purify our water, can unintentionally create NDMA as well.
NDMA Was Found in Blood Pressure Drugs Earlier This Year
Since last year, the FDA has been investigating NDMA in certain blood pressure and heart failure medicines categorized as angiotensin II receptor blockers.
In July, the agency issued a handful of recalls of blood pressure medications after a concerning amount of NDMA was found in the drugs valsartan, losartan and irbesartan.
The FDA estimated that if 8,000 people took the highest dose of the recalled valsartan daily for four years, there'd be just one additional cancer case from that group of people.
The FDA stressed the importance of continuing to take the medications until a healthcare provider could recommend a replacement.
If you experience any side effects after taking these blood pressure medications or any heartburn medications with ranitidine, report it to the FDA's MedWatch Program.
The Bottom Line
CVS and Walgreens will no longer sell certain ranitidine heartburn medications, including Zantac.
The news comes after the FDA announced that ranitidine heartburn medications may contain traces of a cancer-causing chemical known as N-nitrosodimethylamine (NDMA).
The agency is currently looking into the health risks associated with the amount of NDMA identified in the drugs. It will post more information as it learns more.
As of now, the FDA isn't recommending people stop taking ranitidine, but those who'd like to switch medications should talk to their doctor about other treatment options.
Reposted with permission from our media associate Healthline.
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
Corporations that flouted environmental regulations and spewed pollutants into the air and dumped them into waterways will not be required to pay the fines they agreed to during the pandemic, according to The Guardian.
- Cost of Polluter Penalties at 20-Year-Low Under Trump's EPA ... ›
- Penalties Against Polluters Drop 60% Under Trump - EcoWatch ›
- Oil Companies Were Not Held Accountable for 10.8 Million Gallons ... ›
By Hans Nicholas Jong
The Indonesian government has backed down from a decision to scrap its timber legality verification process for wood export, amid criticism from activists and the prospect of being shut out of the lucrative European market.
Viruses, pollution and warming ocean temperatures have plagued corals in recent years. The onslaught of abuse has caused mass bleaching events and threatened the long-term survival of many ocean species. While corals have little chance of surviving through a mass bleaching, a new study found that when corals turn a vibrant neon color, it's in a last-ditch effort to survive, as CBS News reported.
- Coral Reef Tipping Point: 'Near-Annual' Bleaching May Occur ... ›
- Coral in Crisis: Can Replanting Efforts Halt Reefs' Death Spiral ... ›
- 2020 Great Barrier Reef Bleaching Event Is Most Widespread to Date ›
During summer in central New York, residents often enjoy a refreshing dip in the region's peaceful lakes.
But sometimes swimming is off-limits because of algae blooms that can make people sick.
- Algal Blooms Can be Deadly to Your Dogs - EcoWatch ›
- Every Mississippi Beach Is Closed Due to Toxic Algae - EcoWatch ›
- Toxic Algal Blooms Connected to Climate Change and Industrial ... ›
More than 40 million doctors and nurses are in, and they are prescribing a green recovery from the economic devastation caused by the new coronavirus.
- A 'Green Stimulus' Could Battle Three Crises: Coronavirus ... ›
- German Business Leaders Call for Climate Action With COVID-19 ... ›
- Canadian Groups Fight for a Just Covid-19 Recovery - EcoWatch ›
The U.K. government has proposed delaying the annual international climate negotiations for a full year after its original date to November 2021 because of the coronavirus pandemic.
By Jared Kaufman
Upcycled food is now an officially defined term, which advocates say will encourage broader consumer and industry support for products that help reduce food waste. Upcycling—transforming ingredients that would have been wasted into edible food products—has been gaining ground in alternative food movements for several years but had never been officially defined.
- Chefs Are Going Back to Their Roots for Local, Sustainable Foraged ... ›
- This Montreal Company Turns Juice Pulp Into Food - EcoWatch ›