Zantac Lawsuit Filed Over West Virginia Man’s Death from Esophageal Cancer

The widow of a West Virginia man who died from esophageal cancer is filing a wrongful death lawsuit against the makers of Zantac, alleging that his exposure to NDMA from the recalled heartburn drug is what caused his cancer diagnosis. The lawsuit, filed by Sonja O’Neal in the U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey on January 10, seeks to recover compensation from Sanofi-Aventis, Sanofi U.S., Boehringer Ingelheim and Chattem for the death of the plaintiff’s husband, Richard O’Neal, in 2018. If you or someone you love has been diagnosed with cancer and you believe Zantac or ranitidine to be the cause, contact an experienced Zantac cancer lawyer today to find out if you are eligible to file a claim against the drug makers.

Risk of Cancer from Zantac Treatment

Dozens of lawsuits have been brought against the makers of brand-name Zantac and generic ranitidine products in recent months, since nearly every version of the heartburn drug has been removed from the market over concerns about exposure to the carcinogenic chemical N-nitrososdimethylamine (NDMA). The lawsuits involve similar allegations that exposure to NDMA present in ranitidine resulted in various types of cancer along the digestive tract, including esophageal cancer, stomach cancer, colon cancer, rectal cancer bladder cancer, kidney cancer and liver cancer.

According to Sonja O’Neal’s lawsuit, her husband used Zantac regularly from about 2003 until his death in January 2018. Richard O’Neal was diagnosed with esophageal cancer in December 2017, but because there were no indications that Zantac users could develop cancer from exposure to NDMA, he had no way of knowing his disease was linked to the heartburn medication. “Plaintiff did not discover, and could not have discovered through the exercise of reasonable diligence, that high levels of the carcinogen NDMA was produced by Zantac ingestion,” the wrongful death lawsuit states.

Citizen Petition Calls for Recall of Ranitidine

It wasn’t until September 2019 that the potential for Zantac treatment to cause cancer was finally brought to the attention of the public, primarily because of a citizen petition filed by the pharmacy that found the NDMA in Zantac during testing. In its petition, the pharmacy called for the FDA to recall and suspend sales of ranitidine in the United States. “Valisure tests all batches of all its medications for quality and consistency issues and through such tests detected extremely high levels of N-Nitrososdimethylamine (‘NDMA’), a probable human carcinogen, in every lot tested, across multiple manufacturers and dosage forms of the drug ranitidine,” the petition stated.

Ranitidine Recalls Issued by Drug Makers

The same month it received the citizen petition, the FDA issued a statement indicating that “some ranitidine medicines, including some products commonly known as the brand-name drug Zantac, contain a nitrosamine impurity called N-nitrosodimethylamine (NDMA) at low levels.” The agency stopped short of issuing a Zantac recall at that time. However, in the months since the FDA’s initial warning, multiple drug manufacturers have issued voluntary recalls of Zantac and ranitidine, due to concerns about the presence of unacceptable levels of NDMA in the drugs. The FDA has since advised drug makers to recall their ranitidine products if testing shows NDMA at levels that exceed the acceptable daily intake limit. Despite these recalls, many consumers remain unaware that cancer that was diagnosed in recent years may have been caused by Zantac, which has been sold in the United States since 1986.

Other Medications Recalled Due to NDMA

Prior to the Zantac recall, several other medications were removed from the market after it was discovered that they contained unacceptable levels of NDMA or other nitrosamines, including the generic blood pressure medications valsartan, losartan and irbesartan, the diabetes drug metformin, and the heartburn drug nizatidine, which is chemically similar to ranitidine. Lawsuits brought on behalf of consumers who used these recalled medications and subsequently developed cancer allege that the drug manufacturers knew or should have known that their products could expose users to cancer from NDMA and failed to adequately warn the public of this risk.

In her wrongful death lawsuit, Sonja O’Neal alleges that questions had been raised about the safety of ranitidine even before the drug first became available for sale more than 30 years ago. Before it was introduced, and shortly thereafter, “questions were raised as to whether ranitidine ingestion can lead to the formation of highly carcinogenic NDMA within the human body,” the lawsuit states. “As time went on, the scientific evidence establishing that NDMA is formed from ranitidine, in the body, and in other conditions, continued to pile up.” By failing to issue proper warnings about the potential risk of NDMA exposure from Zantac, a growing number of lawsuits allege, drug makers negligently exposed users to cancer and other potentially life-threatening side effects.