The Link Between Zantac & Cancer

Some of the most shocking news to come out of the medical industry recently includes reports that the heartburn medication Zantac contains high levels of a cancer-causing substance know as N-nitrosodimethylamine (NDMA). This news is a cause for concern to consumers that have taken Zantac in the past. Read on to find out more about the Zantac-cancer link.

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The Discovery of the Zantac Cancer Link

Although there had been earlier studies that showed that Zantac contained high levels of NDMA, things really came to a head when the pharmaceutical company, Valisure performed testing that revealed the NDMA content and then petitioned the FDA to take it off the market.

Valisure is a company that regularly tests medical products before releasing them on the market. They operate an International Standards Organization (ISO) 17025 accredited laboratory which means they uphold the highest standards for calibration and testing. When the company petitioned the FDA to remove Zantac from the market due to its carcinogenic properties, their actions carried a lot of weight in the medical industry.

What is NDMA?

Zantac, which is the market name for ranitidine, poses a cancer risk due to its high content of NDMA.

NDMA is a water soluble, or carbon based chemical. It consists of a nitrate group that is attached to a dimethylamine group. This combination gives the chemical cancer-causing properties.

NDMA is a yellow liquid with no obvious taste or odor. It was once used to make rocket fuel but, today, it is used for research purposes only.

Because it is a byproduct produced by manufacturing processes, it can be found, in tobacco and certain foods and household products. However, it is not harmful when present in low doses.

World Health Organization and NDMA

The World Health Organization (WHO) is one of the specialized agencies that has classified NDMA as a carcinogen. Their International Agency for Cancer Research unit studied over 200 research papers on NDMA and its potential to increase the risk of cancer and classified the chemical as a carcinogenic as a result of their studies. The information they found revealed that NDMA can cause malignant tumor growth in multiple organs, in multiple species and through multiple means of exposure.

The ICH and NDMA

Another agency who studied NDMA to find determine its cancer-causing potential is the International Council for Harmonisation of Technical Requirements for Pharmaceuticals for Human Use (ICH). This agency establishes guidelines for nations all over the world.

The ICH places NDMA among the chemicals that are most likely to cause cancer. They consider these chemicals to be a major cause of concern because they can increase the risk of cancer even if there is minimal exposure.

NDMA and Cancer

Cancer is said to be caused by ongoing exposure to carcinogens that lead to DNA damage and finally, genetic mutations. When NDMA enters the body, the body’s defense system is activated. It sends out enzymes known as cytochrome P450 to fight the invasive chemical.

The enzyme that many believe is responsible for fighting NDMA is CYP2E1. When CYP2E1 fights NDMA an organic compound known as methyldiazonuim ion (MI) is produced. MI is thought of as being the ultimate carcinogen because it interacts directly with DNA to initiate carcinogenesis.

MI normally goes through a process through DNA methylation which is the addition of a methyl group to a DNA molecule. In normal cases, this would cause the production of a particular product, normally a protein.

However, when NDMA is introduced, it leads to abnormal methylation that can cause cancer.

NDMA Production in Zantac

The testing Valisure conducted revealed exceptionally high levels of NDMA in the medication, sometimes reaching as high as 3,267,968 per tablet. This is in comparison to the FDA’s legal recommended limit of 96 ng.

Because the findings were so unusual, Valisure decided to conduct further testing to find out if the heat used in the testing process caused the NDMA levels to skyrocket. Therefore, they decided to test under conditions that most closely simulated those found within the stomach.

Under these conditions, the NDMA levels were not quite as high, but they were still extremely concerning, ranging from 23,600 to 304,500 per tablet.

This led to the conclusion that the conditions inside the stomach were ideal for the creation of NDMA after Zantac ingestion.

It is believed that after taking the medication, the stomach separates the nitrate and DMA from the Zantac molecule. The remaining DMA may then attach itself to the nitrates already existing in the stomach, or the nitrate extracted from the Zantac, to form NDMA.

It is also possible that after Zantac is digested an enzyme called dimethylarginine dimethylaminohyrdrolase (DDAH) can react with ranitidine to liberate DMA from the medication making it available to combine with the nitrates generating NDMA throughout the body.

Stanford Study on the Zantac Cancer Link

Although Valisure found significant amounts of NDMA in Zantac during their 2019 study, they weren’t the first to find out about the medication’s harmful effects. A 2016 study at Stanford University found that those that took Zantac experienced a 400-fold increase of NDMA in their urine.

Taking Legal Action Against Zantac

If you or a loved one developed cancer as a result of taking Zantac, you can take legal action to be compensated for damages including lost wages, medical expenses and emotional pain and suffering. There are many personal injury and wrongful death lawyers experienced in handling Zantac lawsuits that will see to it that justice is served.

The Zantac company knew their products contained NDMA, yet they continued to distribute it knowing they were causing harm to millions of people. Don’t let them get away with it. If you have taken Zantac in the past, call a reliable lawyer to find out how you can be compensated.


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