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Leading Cancer Center No Longer Offering Zantac to Patients

Zantac | Bloomberg | Anna Edney | October 2, 2019

One of the nation’s leading cancer centers will no longer offer Zantac and its generics to patients, as it reviews the potential cancer risk from the discovery of a carcinogen in the popular stomach pills.

Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center is removing Zantac products from the list of drugs that it offers patients “out of caution due to a recent product alert from the Food and Drug Administration,” Caitlin Hool, a spokeswoman for the New York-based center, said in an email on Monday. The process will take a few weeks, she said.

Separately, the center is researching whether Zantac and its generics, known as ranitidine, may increase users’ chance of getting cancer.

U.S. and European health officials are investigating levels of the carcinogen NDMA in Zantac and its generic equivalent, ranitidine. A number of pharmaceutical companies and retailers have taken steps to pull the drugs from shelves, though not all versions have been recalled. The FDA has advised patients that there are other medications available to treat the same symptoms that ranitidine is designed to soothe.

Branded Zantac is made by French drugmaker Sanofi. Ranitidine is made by many generic-drug manufacturers.

Memorial Sloan Kettering’s research was sparked by the findings of Valisure, an online pharmacy that tests the drugs it dispenses to patients. Valisure found excessive levels of the probable carcinogen NDMA in generic and name-brand versions of Zantac. NDMA is the same carcinogen that sparked an ongoing recall of millions of blood-pressure pills in about 30 countries starting last year.

The FDA found NDMA levels as high as 17 micrograms in the blood-pressure pills recalled starting in July 2018. Valisure detected NDMA levels as high as 3,000 micrograms in Zantac pills and its generics. Valisure testing that sought to re-create the conditions of the stomach detected NDMA levels as high as 300 micrograms in the Zantac drugs.

Lior Braunstein, an oncologist at the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center who is co-leading the research on Zantac, said the idea that the drug could be causing cancer “would never have crossed my mind.”

“We trust our drug supply but, you know, recent events show issues can arise every once in a while,” he said in an interview about his research in August.

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