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Do you take Zantac? Here’s what you need to know

Do you take Zantac? Here’s what you need to know
[Photo: Staff Sgt. Keith Ballard/U.S. Air Force]

Zantac may cure heartburn, but there is growing concern that its active ingredient—ranitidine—also causes cancer.

While the FDA has not recalled products containing ranitidine and has not yet recommended patients stop taking the drug, a growing number of pharmacies have pulled Zantac off their shelves as the alarm sounds. Walgreens, Walmart, and Rite Aid have already done so, and on Saturday, CVS announced it was suspending the sale of Zantac and CVS Health brand ranitidine products “out of an abundance of caution.

The move comes after both the FDA and its European counterpart, the EMA, announced their plan to officially review the presence of the probably carcinogen N-nitrosodimethylamine (NDMA) in medicines containing the drug ranitidine. It’s not believed to be harmful when ingested in very low levels, per the EMA.

Sandoz, owned by Novartis, told the BBC it is recalling “several batches of its ranitidine-containing medicines” and that the recalls were “under way or pending” in Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Hungary, Macedonia, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Sweden, Switzerland, and the U.S. Some other drug manufacturers are following suit, but for now the pharmacies are leading the way.

If your doctor prescribed Zantac, the FDA says it’s fine, but maybe also to contact your healthcare professional to ask about alternatives. (Sounds casual, no?) The agency also suggested anyone buying Zantac over the counter could consider other options, although pharmacies are leaving you with no choice as they remove Zantac and other ranitidine-containing products from the shelves.

If you don’t trust this current iteration of the FDA for whatever reason, according to the BBC, French authorities also believe there is no “acute risk” from Zantac and patients should not stop the medication before seeking alternatives.

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