US retailer suspends heartburn drug over cancer fears

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US retailer CVS has become the latest to suspend the sale of a heartburn drug being investigated for links to cancer.

It follows concern in several countries over the presence of impurities in Zantac and other ranitidine products.

Canada and France have already announced Zantac recalls. Meanwhile, the US and the European Union are investigating.

No immediate risk
Health authorities say there is no immediate risk, but patients have been advised to consult a doctor who can prescribe alternatives to ranitidine.

On September 13, both the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the European Medicines Agency (EMA) published their decisions to review the presence of

N-nitrosodimethylamine (NDMA) in medicines containing the drug ranitidine.

Probable human carcinogen
NDMA is classified as a probable human carcinogen (a substance that could cause cancer) on the basis of animal studies.

It is found in water and foods, including meats, dairy products, and vegetables, but is not expected to cause harm when ingested in very low levels, EMA says.

Ranitidine products are used to reduce the production of stomach acid in patients with conditions such as heartburn and stomach ulcers.

However, health regulators are urging people taking ranitidine not to discontinue it immediately.

The FDA said, “Those taking it by prescription should contact health professionals about alternatives. And those buying it over the counter could consider other options.”

 

Olajumoke Adeleke