CVS pulls Zantac, generic brand over potential link to cancer

By KYW Newsradio 1060

UPDATED: 9:28 a.m.

PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — CVS Pharmacy has announced it will stop selling the the popular heartburn medicine Zantac and the store's generic brand because of a possible link to cancer. 

CVS's decision was made after several generic versions of Zantac were already voluntarily pulled from shelves. The Food and Drug Administration announced there was a voluntary recall of the drug ranitidine last week. 

Earlier this month, the FDA says trace amounts of the known carcinogen N-nitrosodimethylamine, or NDMA, was found in some of the heartburn medicine. 

NDMA, is fairly common. Low levels can be found in foods like smoked or cured meats and fishes, but this is definitely worth looking further into, according to Dr. Pardheep Gupta, director of the Industrial Pharmacy Lab at the University of the Sciences in Philadelphia. 

"The safety of any drug whether it's been on the market for many, many decades or only a few weeks or months cannot be taken for granted," Gupta said.

The FDA says there's no need to panic, and Dr. Gupta agrees.

"If I were taking Zantac or ranitidine, I would not stop taking it," he said. 

The FDA is suggesting now that people who use Zantac or the generic brand switch over to another drug while more testing is done. 

Gupta agrees, saying that there are other medicines available, and people should talk to their doctors if they have any questions.

KYW Medical Editor Dr. Brian McDonough says it's better to be safe than sorry. 

"I mean at the very least, as a physician, when I prescribe a medicine or I tell someone to take something, I expect the medication to be pure. We know there are side effects in many medication you take, but you don't want unexpected side effects from contaminents," he said.

Sanofi, the company that makes Zantac, reitereated the fact that there have only been very small amounts of NDMA found in the drug, but they vow to keep working with the FDA in the investigation and testing.