The first Zantac trial was scheduled to begin in February but was delayed so that the judge presiding over the case in a California court could weigh in on whether the plaintiff’s testimony would be allowed. On March 23, Judge Evelio Grillo of the Superior Court of the State of California for the County of Alameda approved expert witness testimony of plaintiff James Goetz, who claims he developed bladder cancer as a result of taking Zantac, the popular heartburn drug that was taken off the market in 2020 due to concerns its active ingredient could degrade into a cancer-causing byproduct.
The trial of Goetz, one of at least 100,000 people to file a Zantac lawsuit, is now scheduled for July 24 and may have far-reaching implications, despite 50,000 claims consolidated before a federal judge having been tossed in one-fell swoop back in December 2022. The federal judge’s decision, however, does not apply to plaintiffs who filed their Zantac lawsuit in state courts.
GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), the pharmaceutical company that originally manufactured Zantac in the late 1970s and brought the drug to market in 1983, maintained that Goetz’s expert witness testimony should be tossed, considering that over a dozen research studies have failed to show an association between ranitidine and cancer. GSK’s finding is contrary to testing by the independent laboratory and pharmaceutical company, Valisure, Stanford University and later testing by the U.S. Food & Drug Administration. Valisure made the FDA aware of the inherent nature of ranitidine to degrade into the potentially-carcinogenic substance, NDMA. The FDA’s safe daily limit for exposure to NDMA, which is naturally present in water and food, is 96 ppm. However, batches of Zantac tested by Valisure, were found to contain upwards of 3 million ppm of NDMA.
The longer Zantac is stored, the more likely that levels of NDMA will climb above the FDA’s safety threshold. In April 2020, the FDA pulled all ranitidine drugs off the market.
Considering that millions of people have taken Zantac, if Goetz and subsequent plaintiffs are successful at trial in state courts, the number of Zantac lawsuits could climb considerably.