CVS Health is the latest pharmacy to suspend sales of the over-the-counter heartburn drug Zantac because of concerns over impurities in ranitidine products that might be linked to cancer.
The product is already under recall in France and Canada, and health agencies in the U.S. and the European Union are conducting investigations. In addition to CVS, Walmart, Rite Aid, and Walgreens have temporarily halted sales of the product.
In a statement over the weekend, CVS said it is taking action “out of an abundance of caution” after the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) disclosed earlier this month that it had determined that ranitidine products may contain a low level of nitrosodimethylamine (NDMA), which is a probable human carcinogen.
“The FDA is continuing to evaluate whether low levels of NDMA in ranitidine pose a risk to patients. The levels that FDA is finding in ranitidine from preliminary tests barely exceed amounts found in common foods,” CVS said in its statement.
Zantac not yet recalled
Ranitidine is an H2 blocker that has been shown to help relieve heartburn. CVS said its pharmacies will continue to sell other over-the-counter H2 blockers, including Pepcid, Tagamet and its respective generic equivalents, famotidine, and cimetidine.
CVS stresses that Zantac has not been recalled and that the FDA has yet to suggest consumers stop taking ranitidine products. Even so, CVS says consumers who have purchased Zantac and the CVS generic equivalent may return the products to CVS for a refund.
Talk to a pharmacist
Consumers seeking alternative therapy to treat their condition should speak with their healthcare provider or a CVS pharmacist. CVS says its pharmacists are available to discuss any questions or concerns that customers may have about Zantac or any other medications.
In mid-September, both the FDA and the European Medicines Agency announced they would review the presence of NDMA in medicines that contain ranitidine. Although NDMA has been classified as a possible carcinogen, it is found in a wide variety of things that people consume, including water, meats, dairy products, and even vegetables.
Ranitidine works in the body to reduce stomach acid, making it helpful for people who suffer frequent heartburn or who have stomach ulcers.