What You Need to Know About the Recall of Heartburn Medicine Zantac

Oct 4 • 2019
Dr. Mark Castellaw

Q&A: Why Zantac Was Pulled From Stores and What You Should Do

Many people take over-the-counter Zantac for heartburn and acid reflux. This week, Walmart, Walgreens, Rite Aid and CVS Pharmacy pulled the popular antacid medicine — and its generic form, ranitidine — from shelves because of concerns they may contain low levels of a possible cancer-causing substance.

Have you taken the medication recently? If so, should you be concerned? We sat down with Dr. Mark Castellaw, medical director at Baptist Medical Group-The Medical Group, to find out what you need to know about the voluntary Zantac recall.

Q: Why is Zantac being recalled?

A: A few drug manufacturers issued a voluntary recall for the heartburn medicine Zantac and its generic form, ranitidine because of contamination with a potentially harmful chemical called N-Nitrosodimethylamine, or NDMA.

Q: What harm can the contaminant cause?

A: Right now, they haven’t observed harmful effects in individuals taking ranitidine or Zantac. The Food and Drug Administration is trying to determine if the low levels of NDMA are enough to pose a risk to patients.

Low doses of this contaminant are also sometimes found in meat, dairy products, vegetables and water. Laboratory tests show NDMA has the potential to cause cancer in animals, but more research is needed to understand the long-term risks to humans.

Q: Are all Zantac and generic ranitidine products affected?

A: It’s important to understand that there is no problem with the medicine itself. Ranitidine and  Zantac are fine. The concern is with contaminated batches of medicine from specific manufacturers.

However, some retailers pulled all types of this medication off store shelves until they have more information. Retailers and pharmacies want people to be as safe as possible while the FDA investigates the impurity.

Q: What should you do if you take Zantac?

A: At this time, the FDA is not recommending patients stop taking all ranitidine products. Your doctor or pharmacist can tell you if the medicine you’re taking has been recalled. If it’s not recalled, it’s safe to keep taking it. If your medicine is recalled, your pharmacist will provide an alternative.

There are other ways to relieve heartburn if you don’t want to take medicine. Eliminate spicy, fatty and acidic foods, such as coffee, chocolate and tomatoes. Wear loose-fitting clothing; tight clothing compresses your stomach and hinders digestion. Don’t eat late at night or lie down after meals. Stop smoking and try chewing sugarless gum to help remove acid from your esophagus.

Some patients still find the best relief with medicines, such as Zantac. Don’t stop your medicine until you talk to your doctor. Stopping abruptly can be dangerous. The safest thing to do when you think your medication could be involved in a recall is to check with your doctor or pharmacist.

Visit our website to learn more about heartburn, acid reflux and gastroenterology care. Find a doctor by visiting our Find a Doctor page.