October 09, 2019
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is currently investigating whether low levels of a probable carcinogen, N-nitrosodimethylamine (NDMA), found in Zantac and generic forms of ranitidine pose a risk to patients.
Despite its investigation, the FDA has not recommended patients cease taking these medications, which are used to treat heartburn and related conditions. But several ranitidine products already have been voluntarily recalled and major pharmacies have removed Zantac and its generic versions from their shelves.
There are options for patients seeking alternative medications to treat heartburn and related gastroesophageal conditions, though the FDA recommends patients taking prescription ranitidine products consult with their doctors before changing medications.
If you're considering switching medications, here's what you should know:
Ranitidine is a Histamine H2-receptor antagonist, a form of drug more simply known as an H2 blocker.
"H2 blockers are short-term preventative medications that decrease stomach acid," according to goodrx.com. "They block histamine, one of the body’s inflammatory agents, from stimulating the stomach to produce acid.”
Over-the-counter versions of ranitidine, including Zantac, are used to treat heartburn. Prescription versions are used to treat stomach ulcers and gastroesophageal reflux disease. The latter “occurs when stomach acid frequently flows back into the tube connecting your mouth and stomach (esophagus)” and irritates the lining of your esophagus, according to the Mayo Clinic.
Drug companies Apotex and Novartis, through its generic division, have recalled all of their generic ranitidine products sold in the U.S., according to Harvard Health. Additionally, CVS, Walgreens and Rite-Aid have stopped selling ranitidine products.
So what are the alternatives to Zantac?
Antacids and other H2 blockers such as Pepcid (famotidine) and proton pump inhibitors, like Nexium, can relieve heartburn symptoms. Such drugs also are used to treat acid reflux and gastroesophageal reflux disease.
Lifestyle changes can make a difference, too. Avoiding spicy foods, alcohol and large meals can reduce the buildup of acid inside the stomach. For acid reflux, avoid eating late at night and sleep with your head elevated.
But remember that the FDA has not told patients to stop using Zantac and it's important to consult with a doctor before changing medications. For the latest on the FDA investigation, click here.