Doctors Talking

What is NDMA?

Within the last few months of 2019, the popular acid-reflux drug Zantac (ranitidine) has been recalled and pulled from pharmacy shelves nationwide. These actions have been taken due to concerns that the medication is contaminated with the chemical N-nitrosodimethylamine (NDMA).


NDMA can be produced naturally and artificially, and was formerly used in the production of rocket fuel, lubricant additives, and plastics. It is a type of N-nitrosamine, a family of chemicals that are known carcinogens. It is not currently produced or commercially used in the US, except for in laboratory research. In fact, its main use today is to induce tumor growth in experimental animals, and it has been known as a cancer risk for decades. An article from the 1970’s stated that “NDMA has caused cancer in nearly every laboratory animal tested so far.” It is classified as a probable carcinogen by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), World Health Organization (WHO), and the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC).

There are a variety of ways you may be exposed to NDMA:

  • Ingesting foods such as smoked meats, cured meats, malt beverages such as beer and whiskey, cheese, and fish, which contain high levels of nitrosamines

  • Ingesting foods that have been treated with pesticides that contain high levels of alkylamines, which cause NDMA to synthesize in the stomach

  • Drinking contaminated water - NDMA is easily dispersed through water and can contaminate drinking water through runoff

  • Breathing or inhaling cigarette smoke, as cigarettes contain small amounts of NDMA

  • Using toiletry and cosmetic products such as certain shampoos and cleansers which contain NDMA

The FDA has set a “permissible daily intake limit” for NDMA of 96 nanograms (ng). A single filtered cigarette contains between 5 - 43 ng of NDMA, while a hot dog can contain between 30-120 ng. Shockingly, testing found that some Zantac (ranitidine) samples had NDMA levels over 3,000,000 ng. In 2018, testing showed “trace amounts” of NDMA in blood pressure medications such as valsartan, losartan and irbesartan, which led to an FDA recall. The FDA has not recalled ranitidine, but regulators have stated they’d review the safety of the drug, while Novartis generic drug manufacturing halted distribution of their versions of Zantac, and CVS and other pharmacies removed the product in their stores.


In contrast to the NDMA “contamination” found in the blood pressure medications, tests found that the drug itself actually degrades and forms into NDMA. This is thought to be due to the unstable nature of ranitidine. As far as its chemical structure, the ranitidine molecule has both a nitrate (N) and dimethylamine (DMA) group, and can easily break down and essentially “react with itself” to form NDMA. This happens especially in higher heat conditions, though no temperature label or regulation was ever put on ranitidine drug products. Research also shows that ranitidine forms significant amounts of NDMA with nitrates present. Surprisingly, Zantac has been specifically marketed to treat symptoms caused by foods with high nitrate levels.

How Can We Help?

There have been numerous people taking Zantac over many years, as it has been one of the best-selling antacids since it was introduced in 1983. If you or a loved one has developed cancer after using Zantac (ranitidine), you aren’t alone. Our dedicated attorneys have experience representing clients in mass tort cases (when a civil wrong is committed by a person, entity, or group which results in injury to many victims).

By filing/joining a mass tort claim against Zantac, you may be able to get compensation for your damages and protect others from future threats. Our attorneys will be by your side to help you navigate this complex process with ease.


Don’t hesitate to pursue the compensation you deserve to make up for these pharmaceutical companies’ mistakes. Contact us today to schedule a free consultation and learn your rights.
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