A woman from Illinois who claims Zantac caused her gastric cancer has become one of the most recent plaintiffs to head to court over allegedly contaminated heart burn drugs.
According to complaint filed on February 14th in the U.S. District Court, District of New Jersey, Christine Erfft began using over-the-counter Zantac (ranitidine) in 2000 and continued taking the medication until 2018. She was diagnosed with gastric cancer last year. (Case No. 3:20-cv-01646)
In 2019, the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) warned that Zantac and other generic ranitidine products could contain excessively high levels of N-Nitrosodimethylamine (NDMA), a probable human carcinogen.
Erfft alleges that ranitidine produces NDMA in the human stomach following ingestion. Those allegations echo assertions made last year by Valisure, the online pharmacy that first brought contaminated Zantac to the FDA’s attention. Some pills tested by Valisure apparently contained more than 3,000,000 nanograms (ng) of NDMA. The daily limit deemed safe by the FDA is 96 ng.
“To be clear, this is not a contamination case – the levels of NDMA that researchers are seeing in Zantac is not the product of some manufacturing error,” the Zantac lawsuit notes. “The high levels of NDMA observed in Zantac are a function of the ranitidine molecule and the way it breaks down in the human digestive system.”
Erfft claims, among other things, that various drug makers had long been aware that Zantac might expose users to unacceptably high levels of NDMA, but failed to disclose this risk to consumers or report the problem to the FDA. She further contends that she never would have used Zantac had appropriate safety warnings been made available.
Zantac was brought to market in 1986 by GlaxoSmithKline and was the first medication to surpass $1 billion in annual sales in 1988. Since then, numerous generic drug makers have launched their own versions of ranitidine, both over-the-counter and prescription.
May of same companies recently announced Zantac recalls because of the issues involving NDMA. Their ranitidine-containing medications have also disappeared from store shelves, including from Walmart, Walgreens, CVS, and Rite-Aid.
At least 141 plaintiffs have filed similar Zantac lawsuits in courts around the United States. However, legal experts believe the litigation involving NDMA-contaminated ranitidine heart burn drugs will soon grow to include hundreds – if not thousands – of cases.
In anticipation of a large number of claims, the U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation recently agreed to centralized all federally filed Zantac lawsuits before a single judge in the U.S. District Court, Southern District of Florida. Centralization will allow these cases to undergo coordinated discovery and other pretrial proceedings, thus improving judicial efficiency and preserving the resources of the courts, parties, and witnesses involved in the litigation.