Zantac Pulled Off Shelves: What You Need to Know 

Here’s what to do now that Zantac was removed from local pharmacies.

By now you may have seen the headlines that local pharmacy chains are no longer selling the heartburn medication ranitidine (brand name Zantac) after the Food and Drug Administration revealed it found a chemical called N-nitrosodimethylamine, or NDMA, that could be linked to cancer.

So what should you do if you take or have taken the medication recently?

First, there is no need to panic. NDMA is a known environmental contaminant that can be found in water and foods, including meats, dairy products and vegetables. 

“Low levels of exposure are not felt to have any immediate danger; however, constant exposure to higher levels may be associated with a carcinogenic effect,” says Rig Patel, MD, the medical director of REX Digestive Healthcare. 

In its initial studies, the FDA reported that NDMA levels in ranitidine were not much higher than those seen in common foods. However, the FDA has not completed its evaluations, so the exact levels of NDMA in ranitidine are not definitively known yet. 

While the FDA has not withdrawn this medication, some drug companies have pulled their supplies of ranitidine until detailed testing is complete.

In the meantime, talk to your doctor if you experience heartburn or have concerns about ranitidine. Or follow these tips from REX Digestive Health:

  1. For mild symptoms of heartburn, modifying your diet and lifestyle can help relieve symptoms. Avoid heavy, fatty meals, alcohol, too much caffeine and spicy foods, especially before bedtime. 
  2. If you do not take ranitidine regularly, try famotidine (brand name Pepcid). The equivalent doses to 75 mg and 150 mg of ranitidine are 10 mg and 20 mg of famotidine, respectively. Or use a different over-the-counter antacid such as Tums, Mylanta or Gaviscon. 
  3. If you regularly need ranitidine, switch to famotidine or talk with your health care provider about taking over-the-counter omeprazole (Prilosec), esomeprazole (Nexium) or lansoprazole (Prevacid).

“Famotidine (Pepcid) works in a similar way to ranitidine (Zantac), but as far as we know there are no clear reports of elevated NDMA,” Dr. Patel says. 

If you have concerns about heartburn or ranitidine, talk to your doctor. If you do not have a doctor, find one near you.