Two weeks ago, the FDA put out a statement saying it had learned that some ranitidine medicines were found to contain a nitrosamine impurity called N-nitrosodimethylamine (NDMA) at low levels, which it classifies as a probable human carcinogen. In response, the FDA is conducting an ongoing investigation, working with international regulators and industry partners to determine the source of this impurity. Though the FDA made clear it is not calling for individuals to stop taking ranitidine, its advice to people taking OTC ranitidine was to consider using other OTC medicines approved for their condition.
Last week, the FDA alerted healthcare professionals and patients to a voluntary recall of OTC ranitidine tablets (75mg and 150mg) labelled by Walgreens, Walmart and Rite-Aid, and manufactured by Apotex. Sandoz (Novartis) also said it would no longer be distributing generic versions of ranitidine. This was followed by an announcement over the weekend that US retailer CVS is pulling the No.1 ranitidine-based OTC brand, Zantac (Sanofi), from its shelves over the possible links to cancer. CVS’ own generic ranitidine-based OTC products will also not be carried in the stores moving forward.
Heartburn remedy Zantac is comfortably the No.1 ranitidine-based OTC brand, with global sales of around US$160mn (the vast majority of which are generated in North America). Chattem (Sanofi) markets Zantac in the USA in 75mg and 150mg OTC versions, while Aspen markets the brand in Australia and Perrigo is the UK marketer. In August 2018, Chattem extended its Zantac 150 line-up with two larger, value size 90-count SKUs, boosting sales significantly.
In a statement published in USA Today, Sanofi spokeswoman Ashleigh Koss said the company has no plans to halt shipments in the US market, adding: “The FDA reported that the levels of NDMA in ranitidine in preliminary tests barely exceed amounts found in common foods. We are working closely with the FDA and are conducting our own robust investigations to ensure we continue to meet the highest quality safety and quality standards.”
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