Why Is There a Lawsuit Against Zantac

Legal AssistantConsumer Law, Mass Torts, Personal Injury Law

Ranitidine, commonly known by the brand name, Zantac, belongs to a group of medications called Histamine-2 (H2) antagonists.

It is sold over the counter or by prescription and is used to relieve the symptoms of heartburn and treat ulcers in the stomach and intestines.

On September 13, 2019, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) found traces of N-Nitrosodimethylamine (NDMA) in both over-the-counter and prescription versions of the medication.

NDMA is a carcinogenic contaminant. Several studies have linked the chemical to the formation of cancer in both humans and animals.

What is the lawsuit against Zantac, and why does it matter? Here’s everything you need to know.

Zantac Lawsuit

In April of 2020, the FDA ordered a Zantac recall on all over-the-counter and prescription ranitidine medication brands. This was after it found unacceptable amounts of the environmental contaminant NDMA, which studies have linked to cancer causation.

The first lawsuit against Zantac drugmakers was filed in 2019 in California, when plaintiffs in the suit accused Boehringer Ingelheim and Sanofi of manufacturing, selling, and marketing a drug, they knew to contain a carcinogenic contaminant.

While the exact cause of the contamination is still being investigated, details of the suit indicate that the two drugmakers manufactured and sold ranitidine at a time when there was already-existing scientific research demonstrating a clear link between Zantac and cancer.

Research has shown that NDMA is a by-product of a chemical reaction when ranitidine comes into contact with water. The plaintiffs assert that the drugmakers chose to remain tight-lipped on the risks of taking the medication despite the widely available information.

Does omeprazole contain ranitidine? The short answer is – no, it doesn’t. While omeprazole and ranitidine are both used to treat various conditions that affect the digestive tract, the two drugs are completely different.

Omeprazole belongs to a class of drugs known as proton pump inhibitors. Ranitidine, on the other hand, is a Histamine-2 antagonist.

What Kind of Cancer Does Zantac Cause

If you’ve used Zantac before, you’re likely wondering – Does ranitidine cause cancer, and if so, what kind? Ranitidine in its pure form does not cause cancer. The chemical contaminant NDMA that forms when ranitidine comes into contact with water is what is carcinogenic.

There have been several reports of individuals who’ve developed stomach and bladder cancer after taking Zantac. Nonetheless, several other cancers have been linked to ranitidine, including:

  • Prostate cancer
  • Pancreatic cancer
  • Ovarian cancer
  • Melanoma
  • Lung cancer (among non-smokers)
  • Liver cancer
  • Kidney/renal cancer
  • Intestinal cancer
  • Gastric cancer
  • Esophageal cancer
  • Colon cancer
  • Breast cancer

While this may not be an all-inclusive list, any cancer that develops after taking Zantac qualifies for a lawsuit.

Other Injuries and Side Effects Resulting From NDMA Exposure

In addition to being a causative agent for cancer, NDMA also happens to be a potent hepatotoxin.

This means that exposure to the chemical contaminant in the short term can cause liver scarring, fibrosis, and other forms of damage to the organ. Long-term exposure, on the other hand, increases the likelihood of developing tumors in the liver, kidneys, and lungs.

The following symptoms have been associated with NDMA overexposure:

  • Abdominal cramps
  • Dizziness
  • Enlarged liver
  • Fever
  • Jaundice
  • Nausea
  • Reduced liver, kidney, and lung function
  • Vomiting

Other adverse effects of Zantac include:

  • Disorders of the nervous system
  • Hair loss and skin rashes
  • Increased risk of pneumonia
  • Liver failure and hepatitis
  • Low blood-platelet levels
  • Tachycardia or arrhythmia (rapid or irregular heartbeat)
  • Vitamin B-12 deficiency

Recoverable Damages in a Zantac Lawsuit

If you took Zantac and received a cancer diagnosis thereafter, you can sue the drug manufacturers and seek damages for:

  • Past and future loss of earning capacity
  • Past and future loss of life enjoyment
  • Past and future loss of wages
  • Past and future medical expenses resulting from the injuries
  • Past and future physical/mental pain and suffering brought about by the injuries, as well as the treatment and recovery process
  • Punitive damages

With that in mind, there are two claims for which you can sue Zantac drugmakers.

1. Defective Design

Drug manufacturers are held to a strict liability standard. This means that they are responsible if:

  • The design defect of a drug poses a foreseeable risk
  • The drug was manufactured within the regulatory provisions and used by patients as per the manufacturer’s instructions

Ranitidine molecules are characteristically unstable. When ingested at a normal dosage, the active ingredient – ranitidine hydrochloride – reacts with the body’s chemistry to convert it into NDMA as a natural by-product of the process.

As a result, it doesn’t matter which drug company manufactured ranitidine. It will always react to produce the carcinogenic contaminant. This is a design defect.

2. Improper Labeling

All medications have to come with warning labels indicating the potential risks and side-effects of using the drug in question. Although Zantac had a warning label, it made no mention of the potential carcinogenic effects of ingesting it.

If physicians had prior knowledge of all the risks (carcinogenic and otherwise) that come with Zantac, they would never have prescribed or recommended it to their patients.

The omission of NDMA-related information on the packaging suggests that users were not made aware of the dangers that came with the drug.

Zantac Lawsuit Settlement Amounts

The precise amount of a Zantac lawsuit payout will depend on the outcome of the bellwether cases. These are essentially test trials used to create a guideline for how much a case would be worth in multidistrict litigation (MDL).

They gauge how judges and juries would respond to the evidence provided and the arguments presented in court and use these as a basis for settlement discussions in future negotiations. MDLs provide a way for courts to streamline pretrial cases.

At the time of this publication, there had been no Zantac lawsuit settlements. As of March 24, 2021, 500+ claims were pending in the MDL.

The Bottom Line

Zantac causes cancer. The makers of the drug acted negligently in manufacturing, selling, and marketing a drug they knew contained a carcinogenic contaminant.

Information on the risks of NDMA was already in the public domain. The drug companies chose to ignore it and not disclose it to consumers.

If you or a loved one received a cancer diagnosis after taking Zantac, you’re entitled to seek damages from the drugmakers. Chat online with a Laws101 attorney today to find out how to proceed with your claim.