For decades, Zantac was trusted as one of the most popular heartburn treatments. It was also used for ulcer and GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease). It even became the world’s best-selling drug in 1988!
However, The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced in September of 2019 that preliminary tests of ranitidine, Zantac’s main ingredient, revealed that it contains unacceptable levels of a substance believed to cause cancer. The material found was NDMA (N-nitrosodimethylamine).
In October 2019, voluntary product recalls were implemented by some ranitidine manufacturers, which continued until February of 2020. As more online resources, such as Drug Injury News, talked about Zantac’s contamination and its potential health hazards, FDA finally requested for all ranitidine products to be removed from the market in April of 2020.
How Zantac Went From Being A Best-Selling Drug To Being Removed From The Market
The main reason for Ranitidine prescription and over-the-counter drugs’ recall was the investigations that uncovered unacceptable levels of NDMA, which is a probable human carcinogen, in Zantac.
But can Zantac lead to cancer? It’s a question that many people still ask today – over a year after the FDA’s request for an immediate pullout of the drug from the market.
• What The Data Says
There's actually no sufficient data to directly say that the drug causes cancer. But it's believed that if it's taken for a long time, it might increase cancer risk due to the presence of high levels of NDMA.
According to the FDA, a single Zantac tablet should only contain 96 nanograms of NDMA. However, one pharmacy research determined that one tablet of the drug had 304,500 nanograms of NDMA. This means that the amount of NDMA in some ranitidine medications is about 3,000 times higher than what the federal government considers acceptable!
Furthermore, NDMA, the contaminant found in ranitidine, is a toxin that's specifically classified as a B2 carcinogen. The toxin's classification means that it's likely to cause cancer in humans. During studies, NDMA exposure has been linked to several types of cancer. One study found that NMDA caused primary lung tumors in mice in a dose-dependent manner.
It's essential to note that the FDA also stated that the conditions for the distribution and handling of Zantac, including the time the drug has been on sitting on the shelf, may raise N-nitrosodimethylamine to levels already unacceptable or unsafe to humans.
• How To Know If Zantac caused cancer?
By speaking with a trusted physician, an individual might be able to know whether or not Zantac caused their cancer. While knowing if a specific risk factor caused a person's cancer is very difficult, a doctor might be able to do it by comparing your usage history of the drug with the development of the cancer side effects and symptoms associated with ranitidine.
If you or someone you know – a friend, loved one, or family member – used Zantac in the past, it's best to speak to a doctor immediately and be tested for possible cancer. NDMA is believed to be especially dangerous to older people. However, since Zantac was previously deemed safe both for the intake of the elderly ages above 65 years old and those aged below, it’s most likely that many seniors had long been taking the drug thinking that it's safe for them.
Supporting Seniors With Cancer From Zantac
What if a senior family member developed cancer from taking Zantac? How can caregivers – be it another family member, relative, or an in-home care provider – support them?
Here are some useful tips you can consider from the get-go:
1. Listening to them: One of the best ways to support seniors with cancer from Zantac is to listen to them. Yes, it can significantly help to just listen instead of overwhelming the elderly with positive stories. Let them express their anxieties and fears by asking them open-ended questions.
2. Offering physical support: Cancer and its treatments can cause sickness, pain, continence issues, and feeding problems. That’s why you’ll often find seniors with cancer struggle to do simple things, even accomplishing personal care tasks. So, offer them help.
3. Reminding them about their medications: Another way to support elderly individuals who developed cancer because of Zantac is to remind them to take their medicines. That way, they can stay on schedule. As a caregiver, you can also help them keep their medication log accurately.
4. Providing them with good nutrition: Seniors with cancer should maintain their weight and keep up their energy and strength to better tolerate the symptoms. That’s why helping ensure that they eat well is an essential part of supporting them.
5. Allowing them to have fun: Caregivers shouldn’t be afraid to lighten the mood of an elderly with cancer. Try and find space in their day for moments of joy. Some of the things you can do to let them have fun include watching their favorite films with them, allowing them to do some light gardening with your assistance, and even just chatting with them over a cup of tea. A time for joy can boost their wellbeing!
Zantac has been used by millions of people worldwide due to its wide usage for controlling acid reflux and stomach ulcers over the last few decades. Those who took Zantac that was contaminated with NDMA might be at risk for cancer. The probability of developing an illness is especially higher among seniors.
Whether it's from taking Zantac or not, a cancer diagnosis is terrifying. That's why an elderly loved one suffering from it needs help more than ever.
Whether you're providing the support yourself or hiring a caregiver, what you've learned here should help you ensure that your loved one receives more than enough amount of the assistance they require.
We can Help! Our local advisors can help your family make a confident decision about senior living.