GSK Settles First Zantac Cancer Lawsuit
GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) has agreed to settle the first Zantac Cancer Lawsuit which had been set for trial in July 2023. Though settlement terms are undisclosed, it may suggest that others will also reach agreement.
GSK is facing thousands of lawsuits in state courts in California and Delaware alleging that popular heartburn medication, Zantac caused cancer. The first trial scheduled to be heard was filed by a California resident James Goetz who claimed that Zantac caused his bladder cancer. The settlement agreement came just weeks before the bellwether trial was set to begin.
GSK did not admit any liability and has said that it settled because it wished to avoid distraction caused by protracted litigation. At least 5,000 lawsuits have been filed in California courts and an estimated 73,000 cases reside in Delaware state courts. A large number of federal Zantac lawsuits were dismissed in December, but more may be expected.
Zantac Removed over NDMA Contamination Concerns
Zantac was first approved in 1983 for the treatment of peptic ulcer disease (PUD) and gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) and quickly became the world’s best-selling medication. It became available as a generic medication in 1997 and was later approved as an over-the-counter medication for severe heartburn.
Zantac and over-the-counter formulations of ranitidine were removed from store shelves in 2019 over concerns that the drug may be contaminated with N-Nitrosodimethylamine (NDMA), a likely carcinogen. In April 2020, the Food and Drug Administration ordered manufacturers to stop selling the medication, including store brands.
NDMA contamination has been named as a concern in lawsuits for other pharmaceuticals including popular blood pressure medication valsartan and diabetes drug metformin. Unlike other NDMA contamination cases, concentrations of the chemicals present in Zantac may increase over time.
NDMA is an industrial chemical which has been linked to a number of cancer types including liver, lung, bladder, and gastrointestinal cancers.
Zantac Lawsuits in State Courts Still Pending
GSK is the primary defendant in most lawsuits, but other manufacturers including Sanofi, Pfizer and Boehringer Ingelheim have also been named as each manufactured Zantac at various times. Large retailers such as Walgreens, Walmart and CVS may also be facing lawsuits for NDMA cancer concerns in their generic or store brand formulations of ranitidine.
Though GSK had been somewhat successful in attempts to have federal lawsuits dismissed or limited, they are still facing an estimated 80,000 or more cases in state courts. Company shareholders had become concerned that looming lawsuits would affect stock prices, possibly prompting the company to address lawsuits sooner rather than later. The next Zantac trial is scheduled to begin in November, also in California and Delaware trials have not yet begun. New federal filings may also be expected but the pre-emptive settlement may indicate additional agreements will be made.