One of the many ways in which personal injury lawsuits arise is through the use of products that are alleged to have caused harm. This type of injury can lead to widespread individual and/or class action lawsuits.
Making headlines over the past few years are the Zantac lawsuits. Zantac, and its generic ranitidine, is a medication that was frequently prescribed for individuals suffering from heartburn and GERD. Patients who took Zantac or rantidine are alleging that the drug caused their cancer, and not just one type of cancer.
Zantac, or ranitidine, contains n-nitrosodimethylamine (NDMA) which has been classified as a carcinogen by the World Health Organization (WHO). NDMA’s are considered to be safe at low levels (96 nanograms or less); food and water have low levels of NDMA’s. At high levels, NDMA’s are considered harmful and have been associated with both gastric and colorectal cancers, and affect organs such as the bladder, stomach, pancreas, lungs, and kidneys.
In September of 2019 an online pharmacy notified the FDA that it had found NDMA levels greater than 3,000,000 nanograms in the ranitidine that it had randomly tested. The FDA issued a statement that ranitidine medicines could contain NDMA and recommended further testing and a voluntary recall was issued. In October of 2019, drug manufacturers began to issue recalls and several big chain pharmacies stopped selling Zantac, or any generics containing rantidine. It was not until April of 2020 that the FDA issued a full recall after determining that NDMA levels increase over time as the product is stored, and that they increase significantly when stored at high temperatures. The U.S. no longer sells Zantac or any generic Zantac which contains ranitidine. Other countries have followed suit by either recalling the product or issuing warnings.
Cancers which have typically been the subject of Zantac lawsuits include:
While cancer seems to be the main side effect of Zantac, there have been allegations that it causes other conditions inlcuding primary pulmonary hypertension and Crohn’s disease.
Filing a Zantac Lawsuit
To become a plaintiff in a Zantac lawsuit, many personal injury lawyers require a showing that the potential plaintiff be able to show (and a personal injury attorney can assist in obtaining this information) that they 1) took Zantac (and not just once or twice), that they were diagnosed with cancer, and that there is a connection between the Zantac and the cancer.
Proof of Zantac use can be done through medical and pharmacy records showing that the victim was prescribed Zantac and that the prescription was filled. For plaintiffs who took over-the-counter rantidine products, receipts or some other evidence, like a doctor’s note, will be necessary to show that they took a product containing rantidine.
Cancer diagnosis will be determined by medical records, but a stronger claim will exist if the plaintiff can show that the type of cancer is one linked to NDMA’s. In a non-cancer case, there will also need to be a diagnosis of a disease linked to NDMA’s.
Showing a connection between the cancer and the plaintiff’s use of Zantac is likely the hardest part of a claim. Factors such as length of time the drug was used and patient (and/or family) history will affect any claim. Victims who used Zantac for a year or more will have a greater likelihood of success than victims who only used Zantac for a month or two. In addition, a doctor’s determination that the plaintiff did not have a family history of cancer, or a pre-existing condition known to lead to cancer, is an asset for a plaintiff.
Damages Recoverable in a Zantac Lawsuit
As with all personal claims, a successful plaintiff will recover damages. When dealing with cancer, medical bills and lost time from work, damages could help to ease the burden. Available damages include:
- medical bills - doctor visits, hospital stays, prescriptions, chemotherapy, radiation
- lost wages for time missed from work
- pain and suffering
- in the case of a wrongful death claim, where the victim is deceased, funeral expenses, loss of companionship, lost wages and loss of future earnings, may also be awarded
In a class action lawsuit, one person (plaintiff), or a group of plaintiffs, file(s) a lawsuit on behalf of a larger class, or group, of injured plaintiffs. The majority of the Zantac lawsuits are not class action lawsuits, they are individual claims. Currently, over 70,000 Zantac lawsuits have been filed in federal court. Most of those cases were consolidated into not a class action, but into multidistrict litigation (MDL) in the Southern District of Florida. Therefore anyone who files a Zantac lawsuit in federal court will now have their case heard in Florida. The benefit of MDL litigation is similar to that of class actions, the process is streamlined, it is heard by one judge, and both litigation and settlement should move more quickly.
The litigation in Florida is against brand name drug manufacturers GlaxoSmithKline, Sanofi-Aventis U.S., Sanofi US Services, Boehringer Ingelheim Pharmaceuticals and Chattem, and is solely for plaintiff’s who were diagnosed with cancer after taking Zantac. In July, the judge dismissed claims against generic manufacturers, pharmacies and retailers.
There are additional lawsuits, including class actions, filed in both federal and state courts. The class actions are filed on behalf of small groups who took Zantac but did not get sick. One class action lawsuit is seeking medical monitoring while another is requesting money back for purchasing Zantac. There are also cases filed in California state court and it is believed that those cases will be the first to be heard, likely in October of 2022.
Discuss Your Personal Injury Case with Our Charlotte, North Carolina Attorneys
The Charlotte, NC lawyers at Rosensteel Fleishman, PLLC are experienced personal injury lawyers. They are available to discuss your personal injury with you and help you navigate the legal process if there is a legal claim. Please contact our office at 704-714-1450. There is no fee for an initial consultation.