District Judge Robin Rosenberg has appointed a team of 26 lawyers to lead Zantac lawsuits after conducting a two-day virtual leadership interview involving more than 60 lawyers.
The team consists of a diverse group of minorities, with nearly half being women.
In describing the selection process, Judge Rosenberg emphasized that the court intended to create a diverse leadership team to represent the plaintiffs’ diversity and give an opportunity to new and small firms, including younger or lesser experienced lawyers. Moreover, the court deemed for a team that will bring both wisdom and judgment to the case and new ideas and approaches.
The chosen few are assigned to lead about 230 Zantac lawsuits. The team comprises co-lead counsels, the plaintiff’s liaison counsel, the plaintiff’s steering committee, and a leadership development committee. The court hopes that the team will count on its diversity as the case goes forward.
The lawsuits, both the class action lawsuit for Zantac and individual cases claiming personal injuries, allege that Zantac’s manufacturers and sellers knew that the drug was contaminated with a carcinogen that causes its users to develop cancer.
The lawsuits followed the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s 2019 investigation confirming a potentially cancer-causing ingredient in Zantac, including its generic counterpart, ranitidine.
In its investigation, the FDA recommended Zantac users to stop using the product and find other alternatives. Lawsuits were filed against international companies, including Pfizer, Boehringer Ingelheim Pharmaceuticals, and Sanofi-Aventis U.S.
Zantac, with generic name ranitidine hydrochloride, is used to treat gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), Zollinger-Ellison syndrome, and any other acid reflux condition in the stomach. The said drug can also be taken to treat ulcers and heartburn. GlaxoSmithKline, a European pharmaceutical company, first developed and patented Zantac.
Zantac has been in the market since 1983. It was made available in prescription and over the counter form. With its success in the U.S., it has become the first drug to make a billion. This year, the FDA already requested the manufacturers to withdraw the drug from the market immediately based on the result of their investigations involving its cancer-causing ingredient. However, some drug companies, including Sanofi-Aventis U.S., already made a voluntary recall of the drug last year. Moreover, other companies such as Walmart, CVS, Rite Aid, and Walgreens decided to remove the product from its shelves in 2019.
The carcinogen in question is known as N-Nitrosodimethylamine or NDMA. The chemical has been found to cause cancer since the 1970s, if taken in high amounts. It can affect the breasts, gastrointestinal tract, lungs, thyroid, ovaries, cervix, testicles, and prostate. NDMA is a very common contaminant and can be easily found in our food and water in very low doses.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has constantly warned the public about NDMA, even in low doses. However, after a series of tests and studies, the FDA stated that a daily intake of 96 ng of NDMA is not harmful to our bodies. Furthermore, the FDA emphasized that it is vital not to exceed the 96 ng daily limit.
In September 2019, an online pharmacy named Valisure informed the FDA of ranitidine batches contaminated with NDMA. Valisure found 2,511,469 ng of NDMA levels in OTC Zantac. However, the FDA did not find an alerting high level of NDMA as claimed by Valisure on their initial testing.
It was only later on when they realized that Valisure’s data had merit and recommended Zantac users to discontinue the drug’s intake. FDA then made a series of investigations and tests, but no recall of the drug was done (not until April 2020).
Since 2019, a series of lawsuits have been filed by Zantac users against the drug manufacturers and sellers. The lawsuits continued to rise, especially after April 2020, when the FDA announced the recall. Valisure alleged that not only was ranitidine polluted by NDMA, but it can also dissolve in the stomach and form NDMA.
A Zantac user from Kentucky alleged that he developed bladder cancer in 2018 due to the drug after using 150 mg daily from 2014-2017. Another from Indiana also claimed that she developed uterine cancer in 2018 due to Zantac’s carcinogen ingredient. She used the drug daily from the early 1980s up until 2020.
In February 2020, the United States Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation consolidated all of the Zantac lawsuits in the Southern District of Florida under Judge Rosenberg. The main claim was against the manufacturer Sanofi-Aventis U.S. All plaintiffs alleged that Sanofi was well aware of the high levels contaminated in Zantac and failed to warn the public, causing health problems in its users.
If you are using Zantac as of the moment, it is wise to discontinue its use and follow the FDA’s mandate. Consult your doctor and try other alternatives such as omeprazole (Prilosec), famotidine (Pepcid), lansoprazole (Prevacid), cimetidine (Tagamet), or esomeprazole (Nexium). Lastly, if you believe you developed cancer due to Zantac’s use, it is best to consult with a lawyer to know if you can file a lawsuit.