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Monday, November 18, 2019  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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News >  Spokane

Spokane pharmacies divided on carrying Zantac after cancer-causing chemical found in medication

UPDATED: Tue., Oct. 1, 2019

A box of Maximum Strength Zantac tablets is shown at a pharmacy, Monday, Sept. 30, 2019, in Miami Beach, Fla. CVS has halted sales of the popular heartburn treatment and the store generic version after warnings by U.S. health regulators. But not all Spokane pharmacies have followed suit. (Wilfredo Lee / AP)
A box of Maximum Strength Zantac tablets is shown at a pharmacy, Monday, Sept. 30, 2019, in Miami Beach, Fla. CVS has halted sales of the popular heartburn treatment and the store generic version after warnings by U.S. health regulators. But not all Spokane pharmacies have followed suit. (Wilfredo Lee / AP)

After the U.S. Food and Drug Administration warned last month of low levels of a potentially cancer-causing chemical in the heartburn medication Zantac, Walgreens, Rite Aid and CVS announced they would be pulling the drug and its generic counterpart, pending the investigation findings.

But not all local pharmacies have followed suit.

Ryan Malcom, a Hart and Dilatush pharmacist, said the pharmacy is keeping the drug on the shelf.

“Until we get a recall on it, we don’t generally pull it just because,” Malcom said.

The active ingredient in Zantac is ranitidine hydrochloride, a histamine blocker that counteracts heartburn by reducing the amount of stomach acid produced. The ingredient of concern in Zantac is called NDMA, or nitrosodimethylamine. FDA researchers found small amounts of NDMA in Zantac.

Apotex, the manufacturer of Zantac for Walgreens, Walmart and Rite-Aid, issued a voluntary recall of all its rantitidine products after concerns were raised about the presence of NDMA in the drug. Sandoz Inc., which produced the generic version, announced it would halt distribution on Sept. 23.

NDMA is a contaminant, not a Zantac ingredient. The FDA said NDMA is “a known environmental contaminant and found in water and foods, including meats, dairy products, and vegetables.”

The Medicine Shoppe does not currently have the drug in stock. Though Sixth Avenue Medical Pharmacy is not selling the over-the-counter version of Zantac, it is still filling prescriptions for the generic version of the drug.

“We don’t move a lot of OTC product, so it doesn’t really affect us to be honest with you,” said Erik Nelson, a Sixth Avenue pharmacist. “Most people get a prescription for it just to get it covered by their insurance.”

Nelson said this is a good example of the importance of using a local pharmacy.

“This is why it’s important for people to know their pharmacies and use a local one that they have a relationship with so they can be on top of these kinds of things,” Nelson said. “If you get your stuff in the mail, you have no idea what you’re getting.”

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