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Ask Dr. Nandi: FDA finds 'potentially dangerous' cancer-causing contaminant in Zantac, related drugs

Posted: 5:34 PM, Sep 16, 2019
Updated: 2019-09-16 21:48:26-04

(WXYZ) — Low levels of a 'potentially dangerous' cancer-causing chemical has been found in Zantac, a popular drug that treats heartburn.

It’s N-nitrosodimethylamine, better known as NDMA. It’s been classified as a probable human carcinogen because laboratory tests indicated it could potentially cause cancer, particularly tumors in the liver and other organs.

You may remember NDMA because it’s the same nitrosamine impurity that was found in Valsartan, the blood pressure medication that had widespread recalls last year.

In this instance, low-levels of NDMA were found in samples of ranitidine, the ingredient in Zantac and other related generic versions.

People typically take Zantac to prevent and relieve heartburn symptoms and sour stomach. It works by decreasing how much acid is created in the stomach.

Now ranitidine is also available as a prescription. I’m very familiar with this medication as I offer it to my patients who are suffering from GERD, as well as those who need to treat or prevent ulcers in the stomach and intestines.

NDMA is a known environmental contaminant. So you can find it in foods like meats, vegetables and dairy products. Plus it can be found in water as well.

As of right now, the FDA says the levels barely exceed the amounts you’d find in common foods. However, they are still evaluating whether or not these levels pose a risk to patients.

The safety of my patients is a huge priority for me. The FDA is not recommending anyone stop their medications, however I’m asking my patients to minimize their dosage until we have more information.

But please, if you are taking ranitidine, talk to your doctor first before stopping or making any changes. And if you’re taking over the counter ranitidine and are concerned, there are other options you could try that have been approved for the same or similar uses.

If you have any adverse reactions with ranitidine, the FDA would like to hear about it. You can submit an online report on their website at FDA.gov .