Zantac, the ulcer medicine that has become the world’s best-selling prescription drug, is about to go over-the-counter to fight heartburn.
The Food and Drug Administration approved a nonprescription version of Zantac on Tuesday. Zantac 75 tablets, half the strength of prescription Zantac, will be on pharmacy shelves early next year, manufacturer Glaxo Wellcome said.
It joins the $1 billion antacid market, as the third of a unique class of medicines that blocks the stomach’s production of irritating acid. Merck & Co.’s Pepcid and Smithkline Beecham’s Tagamet already are sold over-the-counter both to treat heartburn and to prevent it from ever forming. Zantac 75, however, is approved only to treat heartburn, not prevent it.
With sales of $3.66 billion last year, prescription Zantac is the world’s top-selling medicine.