FDA Finds Traces Of Potential Carcinogen In Popular Heartburn Medications

The chemical was detected in certain ranitidine medicines like Zantac, which are commonly used to treat ulcers and indigestion.

Low levels of a potential carcinogen could be lurking in everyday heartburn medications including Zantac, U.S. health officials announced Friday.

The chemical, N-nitrosodimethylamine, or NDMA, was detected in certain ranitidine medicines, which are commonly used to treat ulcers and indigestion.

According to a statement from the Food and Drug Administration, laboratory tests have determined that NDMA is a “probable human carcinogen,” meaning it could cause cancer.

It’s not yet clear how the contamination occurred. However, the FDA said the chemical “is a known environmental contaminant and found in water and foods, including meats, dairy products, and vegetables.”

For now, the agency is not calling for the public to toss out heartburn pills, but noted individuals taking ranitidine could consider other approved drugs on the market.

Proton pump inhibitors like Prevacid, Prilosec and Nexium, which are a different type of heartburn drug, are not included in the FDA’s notice.

The agency said it is “evaluating whether the low levels of NDMA in ranitidine pose a risk to patients,” and will share that information once it is available.

NDMA has also been linked to dozens of recalls of prescription blood pressure medications within the past year, including valsartan, which is widely used to treat hypertension. Health officials decided on the recalls upon finding that the NDMA levels in the drugs, which were made in China, were dangerously high.

The FDA is continuing to investigate the matter.

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