Zantac panic: Is it safe for pregnant women to take?

Hillsborough County

BRANDON, Fla. (WFLA) – Questions and concerns continue over whether the popular heartburn medication Zantac can cause cancer.

Major retailers announced this week they were pulling OTC, generic, and prescription versions of Zantac from shelves after the FDA found traces of a known carcinogen in the drug’s active ingredient, ranitidine.

The carcinogen, NDMA, is the same ingredient that led to blood pressure medication recalls earlier this year.

Zantac (or a generic) is one of the most common drugs doctors recommend for expecting mothers to offset heartburn and acid reflux, a frequent pregnancy side effect. It’s also one of the few medications safe for pregnant women to take.

“For this to really affect you, you have to take huge amounts over a long period of time,” explained Dr. Jill Hechtman, an ob-gyn at Brandon Regional Hospital. “This isn’t like ‘Oh my God, I took Zantac for three weeks during pregnancy, I’m going to develop cancer.”

Despite retailers suspending sales, the FDA is not recommending users stop taking the drug. Hechtman says that discrepancy is causing a lot of confusion among doctors and patients alike.

“My advice is just take a different medication,” Hechtman said, citing a lack of information from the FDA and the drug manufacturers.

Hechtman recommends Pepcid, Prilosec, or Tums as safe alternatives for pregnant women and heartburn patients in general. When in doubt, have a conversation with your doctor, she says.

Ashleigh McKean, one of Hechtman’s patients, gave birth at Brandon Regional on Wednesday. She says her second child, Kimberly, came with a lot more hair and a lot more heartburn.

“With this one, it’s definitely been a little more of a rollercoaster with the reflux and things like that,” McKean said.

Like many women, she turned to Zantac during her pregnancy so she sympathizes with the uncertainty many women are facing. She urges them to talk with their doctor, like she did.

“You don’t trust anyone more than you trust your doctor,” McKean said.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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