FDA Warns Heartburn Meds For Including Cancer-Causing Chemical To Drug
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced two days back that several heartburn medications contain small amounts of a cancer-causing chemical called N-nitrosodimethylamine (NDMA). The chemical, known as NDMA, was formerly used in making rocket fuel.
On Friday (Sept. 13), the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced that samples of ranitidine — known by the brand name Zantac — were found to contain a contaminant called N-nitrosodimethylamine (NDMA). That’s the same chemical that was found in heart and blood pressure medications last year, sparking numerous recalls of those affected drugs.
What is NDMA?
NDMA is an environmental contaminant found in water along with meat, dairy, and vegetables.
It’s classified as a B2 carcinogen, meaning it’s a probable human carcinogen. Exposure to high amounts of NDMA is thought to cause gastric or colorectal cancer, according to the World Health Organization Trusted Source.
It’s extremely toxic to the liver. Even small amounts may be linked to liver damage.
Today, the chemical is only used for research purposes in the United States, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.
It’s also a byproduct of many manufacturing processes at industrial sites, including tanneries, pesticide manufacturing plants, and rubber and tire manufacturers.
The chlorination of drinking and wastewater, which treatment plants do to purify our water, can unintentionally create NDMA as well.
Right now, the FDA is not recommending any recalls of ranitidine, nor is the agency telling consumers to stop taking the drug. The FDA is investigating whether the low levels of NDMA found in the drug pose a health risk to patients.
“Although NDMA may cause harm in large amounts, the levels the FDA is finding in ranitidine from preliminary tests barely exceed amounts you might expect to find in common foods,” Dr. Janet Woodcock, director of the FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research, said in a statement.
Individuals taking prescription versions of ranitidine who want to stop using the drug should talk with their health care provider first, the FDA said. And people taking over-the-counter (OTC) versions of ranitidine could consider using a different OTC drug for their condition, as there are multiple drugs approved for the same or similar uses, the agency noted.
The agency is currently looking into the health risks associated with the amount of NDMA identified in the drugs and will post more information as it learns more.