Check your medicine cabinets: the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is calling for a complete removal of over-the-counter heartburn drug ranitidine, commonly known by the brand name Zantac, from both stores and homes.
According to a statement issued on April 1, the administration began their investigation of the medicine back in the summer of 2019 when an independent laboratory found a potentially cancer-causing substance called N-Nitrosodimethylamine (NDMA) in the medicine. At the time, the FDA only confirmed finding small amounts of NDMA in the drug. “Low levels of NDMA are commonly ingested in the diet, for example NDMA is present in foods and in water. These low levels would not be expected to lead to an increase in the risk of cancer,” they explain.
However, they have now announced that those levels of NDMA can significantly increase over time in both high temperatures — often found during distribution and handling of the product to retailers — and “normal conditions,” like sitting on store shelves and in your home.
Several drug stores already pulled Zantac from their inventory last fall, but now all stores will need to follow through. It’s also time to clean out any leftover bottles or packets of pills you might still have laying around. The drug isn’t listed on the administration’s “flush list” of substances you can safely toss in the toilet, but here are a few tips they give for properly getting rid of unwanted medicine like this:
- Mix medicines (liquid or pills; do not crush tablets or capsules) with an unappealing substance such as dirt, cat litter, or used coffee grounds.
- Place the mixture in a container such as a sealed plastic bag;
- Throw away the container in your trash at home.
If you’ve been taking prescription ranitidine, you should discuss options with your doctor before immediately stopping the medication. When they give you the OK, you can dispose of the pills in the same way listed above, but make sure to cross out any personal information listed on the packaging.
The FDA also lists a few other options for over-the-counter heartburn medicine that, as of now, don’t show any NDMA levels: Pepcid (famotidine) ($16.97, Walmart), Tagamet (cimetidine) ($7.98, Walmart), Nexium (esomeprazole) ($23.68, Walmart), Prevacid (lansoprazole) ($23.88, Walmart), or Prilosec (omeprazole) ($23.88, Walmart).
Here’s hoping we can all soothe heartburn without any nasty side effects moving forward!
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