Tom Dougherty, CEO – Stealing Share
2 October 2019
What to do about Zantac and ranitidine?
The FDA recently discovered a cancer-causing agent in ranitidine, the ingredient in the popular heartburn medication, Zantac.
It looks like it contains some low levels of N-nitrosodimethylamine (NDMA), an environmental contaminant found in all sorts of stuff from water to grilled meat. High levels in animals cause cancer. The problem is that there is hardly any data on it in humans.
And this is why Zantac has a problem.
CVS, Walgreens and Rite Aid announced yesterday that they are pulling Zantac and the generic ranitidine from their shelves. The generic business units of Novartis, Sandoz and Apotex are recalling their generic versions out of an abundance of caution.
So what is Sanofi, the maker of Zantac, to do?
So far, we’re just hearing deafening silence from the company. As of today, there is no mention of it on the Sanofi corporate site or the Zantac product site. And Zantac’s Facebook and Twitter haven’t been updated since September 3. No mention of anything on Sanofi’s Facebook or Twitter feed either.
“Sanofi might be smart to temporarily recall Zantac until more is known. But I’m not all sure pharmaceutical companies always make the smartest decisions, especially when there’s dollars to be lost.”
The Zantac dilemma: Dollars over health
Let’s face it. Sanofi doesn’t want to get rid of a big seller. It runs the risk of losing a substantial OTC revenue stream by recalling the heartburn medicine.
Especially because the science is a bit murky when it comes to NDMA’s effects on humans. The FDA isn’t yet recommending individuals stop taking it.
Yet, being the key word here.
A year from now, the FDA could say ranitidine is bad. Or a year from now, the FDA could say it doesn’t know anything. But in either case, to the consumer, it looks like Sanofi cares more about preserving Zantac’s revenue than being cautious and looking after the consumer’s health.
Walgreens, CVS, Novartis/Sandoz and Apotex decided there was enough of a chance the drug could cause cancer that they proactively took it off their shelves or voluntarily recalled it. They at least seem to care.
Sanofi might be smart to temporarily recall Zantac until more is known. But I’m not all sure pharmaceutical companies always make the smartest decisions, especially when there’s dollars to be lost.
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