California resident James Goetz claims that he developed bladder cancer as a result of taking the popular heartburn drug, Zantac, for many years. Goetz filed his lawsuit at the state level. Not all Zantac claimants are as fortunate as Goetz to see their day in court after an unexpected Dec. 2022 ruling issued by a federal judge dismissed all Zantac claims in the multidistrict litigation (MDL).
State Zantac lawsuits have not been dismissed and Goetz’s Feb. 27 trial, to be held in an Alameda County, California Superior Court, will likely shape the outcome of future state Zantac lawsuits that go to trial. Goetz’s attorneys are urging the judge, Evelio Grillo, to allow expert testimony. Judge Grillo’s decision whether to allow the witness will have a big impact on future Zantac cases tried in state courts.
Like thousands of other Zantac claimants, Goetz alleges that his cancer was caused by ranitidine, the active ingredient in Zantac that was pulled from the market by the U.S. Food & Drug Administration in 2020. Valisure, an independent pharmacy and testing company, alerted the FDA to the fact that ranitidine could degrade into a carcinogenic compound known as NDMA, a chemical compound that is found in water and the food supply. However, later testing by the FDA revealed that levels of NDMA were dangerously unsafe when Zantac was stored for a long time and at a temperature above room temperature.
Researchers from Valisure and Stanford University detected the inherent instability of the ranitidine molecule. Valisure petitioned the FDA in 2019 to pull all ranitidine products from the market.
Despite the research from Valisure, Stanford and the FDA’s own testing, Judge Robin Rosenberg, who was overseeing the Zantac MDL, ruled that Valisure’s testing protocols were not sound. (An MDL is a consolidation of similar federal cases. They are tried in one court to avoid having district courts across the country be overwhelmed with similar cases.)