If you or a family member took Zantac (or its generic form "ranitidine"), you probably have a lot of questions. Seemingly overnight, Zantac went from a widely used heartburn medication you could buy at Walgreens to being yanked off the shelves for potentially causing cancer. In this article, we'll answer your essential questions, including:
For decades, ranitidine medications (like Zantac), were available over the counter (OTC) and by prescription to treat conditions like heartburn, ulcers, and acid reflux. In September 2019, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced that tests revealed low levels of N-nitrosodimethylamine (NDMA) in ranitidine. NDMA is a contaminant that's classified as a probable carcinogen (a substance that can cause cancer).
By April 2020, the FDA requested manufacturers to remove ranitidine products, including Zantac, from the market. Manufacturers and retailers quickly pulled Zantac off the shelves across the country. In response, scores of Zantac users (the "plaintiffs") have filed lawsuits against drug manufacturers like Sanofi, the company that owns the rights to Zantac.
By February 2020, nearly 150 similar lawsuits were filed against Zantac manufacturers in federal courts. The lawsuits were consolidated in a federal "multidistrict litigation" (MDL) action in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida (In Re: Zantac (Ranitidine) Products Liability Litigation). Plaintiffs have also filed Zantac-related lawsuits in state courts all over the country.
Learn more about the potential link between ranitidine and cancer and the wave of Zantac litigation that followed the discovery.
You might have a Zantac claim if you (or your loved one in a wrongful death case) can prove:
If you've taken Zantac and you've been diagnosed with cancer, you should talk to a lawyer about a potential lawsuit (see below). Some types of cancers (like esophageal, colorectal, bladder, pancreatic, liver, and stomach) might be more closely linked to NDMA exposure than others. Your lawyer will want your exact diagnosis and treatment plan. Your lawyer might also want to know if you have a family history of cancer. You'll have to prove that you got cancer because you were exposed to NDMA in Zantac, and not because of a genetic predisposition (susceptibility) to cancer.
Most people with Zantac-related cancer are suing drug manufacturers based on product liability law. The details vary from state to state, but in order to win a product liability lawsuit, you typically must prove:
Plaintiffs in Zantac-injury cases will likely argue, among other theories, that the medication was defectively designed (unreasonably dangerous) and that manufacturers "failed to warn" Zantac consumers that the medication increased the risk of cancer.
There is no class action seeking compensation for illness or injury caused by ranitidine products like Zantac. A class-action case involves a single lawsuit filed by a large group of people who have suffered uniform (usually financial) harm. For example, car buyers might pursue a class action against car manufacturers over defective products, or ticket holders might file a class action lawsuit against concert promoters who refuse to issue refunds for canceled shows.
Each plaintiff with a Zantac-related injury, however, is unique. It isn't possible (or fair) for a court to award the same damages to all plaintiffs who claim Zantac caused their cancer. MDL consolidation offers some of the efficiencies of a class action while still allowing plaintiffs to largely control their own legal destinies. Learn more about how multidistrict litigation works in product liability cases.
Plaintiffs who want to recover money spent on Zantac or other ranitidine drugs might well be served by a consumer protection class action. For a deeper dive into the current status of MDL and class action Zantac litigation check out: Is There a Zantac Class Action Lawsuit?
If you've been diagnosed with cancer after regularly taking Zantac, you'll want to know how much your case might be worth. As with all injury-related cases, figuring out the value of a claim over the safety of Zantac or ranitidine starts with an understanding of the nature and extent of the injured person's "damages," which is a legal term that refers to compensation for losses suffered by that person (the plaintiff).
Damages are paid by defendants (and their insurers) in the lawsuit. In these cases, the defendants are usually a pharmaceutical company like GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), Novartis, or Sanofi, all of which manufacture Zantac and other ranitidine products, but others in the supply chain might also share some measure of liability.
Whether your case settles out of court or you receive a judgment in your favor after a trial, the money you receive is considered damages. (Learn more about the basics of damages and compensation in a personal injury case.)
Most personal injury cases like this end up reaching an out-of-court settlement before trial. But it's not easy to predict how much a plaintiff might receive in a settlement.
The first Zantac-related injury lawsuit was set to go to trial in Illinois state court in August 2022. The plaintiff, Joseph Bayer, said he developed esophageal cancer from taking over-the-counter Zantac. Bayer dropped his lawsuit for "personal health reasons" against the makers of Zantac, after a series of settlements with generic makers of ranitidine products totaling over $500,000. Bayer has the right to refile against the makers of Zantac within a year.
The next trials are scheduled to begin in state courts in California and Illinois in February 2023. Trials in the federal MDL, which could include as many as 55,000 claims, are scheduled to begin in the summer of 2023 in Florida.
Let's look at some common categories of damages, and how each might affect the value of your Zantac/ranitidine lawsuit.
As a plaintiff, if you win or settle your case, your damages include compensation for:
Note that if the full extent of your medical complications isn't clear, it's probably not in your best interest to accept an injury settlement offer. Your attorney will almost certainly want to wait until both of you have a clear picture of this component of your damages, because once you accept an injury settlement, you can't go back and reopen your claim, even if you learn that health problems caused by your use of Zantac/ranitidine are worse than you first thought.
If your cancer diagnosis or other Zantac/ranitidine-related health problems have forced you to take time off from your job, or have otherwise affected your ability to earn a living, that kind of economic harm will also factor into your damages. Specifically, you are entitled to compensation for any income you've already lost—and for income you would have earned in the future but now won't—because of your health issues. In "legalese," an award based on future income is characterized as compensation for the injured person's "loss of earning capacity" or "diminished earning capacity."
While economic losses like medical bills and lost income are fairly easy to calculate, "pain and suffering" isn't so easy to quantify. But this category of damages plays a big part in determining how much you can expect to receive in an injury case, and can be a crucial component of a Zantac/ranitidine lawsuit. Pain and suffering in a Zantac case might include:
While pain and suffering is largely subjective, lawyers, insurers, and courts sometimes calculate it and other non-economic damages in direct relation to the plaintiff's economic damages. Sometimes they use a so-called "multiplier" (generally between 1.5 and 4) that is based on the seriousness of the physical injuries, the clarity of the defendant's liability, and other factors. For example, let's say a Zantac plaintiff's medical bills and lost income add up to $25,000, and a pain-and-suffering multiplier of 2 is used because some of the health problems aren't obviously attributable to ranitidine. In that case, the plaintiff's pain-and-suffering damages are $50,000 (the $25,000 economic damages multiplied by 2). Learn more about how pain and suffering is calculated in a personal injury case.
When you file a lawsuit over harm caused by Zantac or some other ranitidine product, you're asking the defendant to compensate you for your damages, but you're also taking on the legal obligation to keep those damages to a reasonable minimum. The law in most states expects injury claimants to minimize or "mitigate" the financial impact of the harm caused by the defendant's alleged wrongdoing. For example, if a pharmaceutical company like GlaxoSmithKline (or another defendant) can successfully argue that you failed to get necessary medical treatment when you first began experiencing health problems, and that the delay caused your condition to further deteriorate, your damages award might be significantly reduced.
A settlement is an agreement between an injured person (the plaintiff) and the party responsible for causing the plaintiff's injury (the defendant). The plaintiff agrees to accept money in return for dropping the lawsuit against the defendant. (Learn more about how a personal injury settlement works.)
Most lawsuits settle because the parties involved (and their lawyers) want to avoid surprises and minimize risk. Zantac (ranitidine) cases are no exception. An ill patient usually doesn't want to risk going all the way to trial and coming away with nothing, and manufacturers of ranitidine products don't want to put their financial viability or their reputations in the hands of civil juries, especially when more than a few product defect cases have led to multi-million dollar plaintiffs' verdicts, often despite less-than-airtight proof of liability.
Settling a Zantac lawsuit also saves the parties time, money, and stress, in most instances.
If you're thinking about filing a Zantac-related injury lawsuit, having an experienced attorney on your side can make a big difference in the outcome of your case. This is a complex area of the law. Let a lawyer handle your case while you focus on getting well or grieving and spending time with your family and friends. For tips on how to find an experienced lawyer you can trust, check out: How To Find the Right Personal Injury Lawyer. You can also use the form at the top or bottom of this page to connect with a lawyer in your area for free.