Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd., Perrigo Co., Sun Pharmaceutical Industries Inc. and Dr. Reddy’s Laboratories Inc. – all generic drug makers – agreed to combine in a settlement which will pay Joseph Bayer more than $500,000. Mr. Bayer alleged that Zantac caused his esophageal cancer.
Though the settlements have been reached over several months, the plaintiff’s lawyers told the judge overseeing Mr. Bayer’s case that they are dropping it after he returned to the hospital to be treated for his cancer.
A trial was originally scheduled to begin in Illinois state court on Aug. 22, 2022. It would have been the first case heard by a U.S. jury regarding contamination in Zantac. Some researchers have linked Zantac to different cancers that include bladder cancer and colon cancer.
Zantac users who have sued for damages claim that generic drugmakers and multi-national drug companies such as Pfizer and GlaxoSmithKline knew Zantac’s active ingredient, ranitidine, could degrade upon digestion and morph into carcinogenic NDMA. They alleged the drug companies knew about the problem for years, yet failed to cease selling it.
Name-Brand Zantac Makers avoid Settlement
No name-brand drug maker – such as Pfizer, GSK, Boehringer Ingelheim – paid in the settlement. The name brand drug makers were the last defendants left in the case, and plaintiffs dismissed the claims against them.
Drug companies have denied that Zantac is linked to cancer. They argue that the NDMA levels in the drug were nearly as high as those found in food.
A spokesman for GlaxoSmithKline said the case against GSK is now essentially dismissed. The GSK mouthpiece said: “The overwhelming weight of the scientific evidence supports the conclusion that there is no increased cancer risk associated with the use of ranitidine.”
A Teva official confirmed last month that they had resolved Mr. Bayer’s claims in the Illinois case for a “nominal value that is far less than what it would have cost the company to go to trial.”
Israel-based Teva also noted that all generic Zantac makers were dismissed from federal suits over the product, saying that “this reflects the lack of merit of any claims against Teva in these suits.”
Plaintiff took only generic Zantac
Mr. Bayer’s lawyers also decided to drop his case against the branded Zantac makers because he apparently testified in a pre-trial deposition that he took only generic versions of Zantac (OTC) for heartburn. In court filings, Mr. Bayer stated that he used both branded and generic Zantac. On that note, someone familiar with the brand companies said they believe Mr. Bayer would have been unable to prove Zantac caused his cancer. If that is true, it’s difficult to decipher why the generic companies settled, except for the fact, as the Teva spokesman said, it was cheaper to settle than go to court.
Zantac was first available in the U.S. by prescription drug in 1983. It morphed into hitting the shelves as an over-the-counter (OTC) heartburn treatment in 1995. GlaxoSmithKline and Warner Lambert developed Zantac jointly. It was then owned by several companies through the years prior to Sanofi’s acquiring it in 2017. It was pulled from the market in 2020 at the direction of the U.S. FDA.
Mr. Bayer, like many other claimants, alleged that Zantac’s many makers knew for years that under hot and humid conditions, ranitidine could deteriorate, turning into an NDMA risk.
The plaintiff’s lawyers said in one amended complaint: “After almost four decades and billions of dollars of sales, ranitidine consumption has caused scores of consumers to develop cancer.”
In 2022, the U.S. FDA said Zantac could contain NDMA. An online pharmacy named Valisure started the storm of information after testing it for strengths and impurities.
Zantac Lawsuits in MDL State Courts
Zantac lawsuits have been filed by more than 2,000 people in state courts that include California, Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Tennessee, and Texas. Some lawyers some 50,000 such cases could be filed by October 2022.
In addition, more than 1,700 cases have been consolidated in a multi-district litigation (MDL) court set up in Florida. A hearing this month will determine whether the science underlying the Zantac claims is legitimate. That will decide whether the cases go to trial.
Mr. Bayer’s Illinois case is Joseph Bayer v. Boehringer Ingelheim Pharmaceuticals Inc., No. 2021L000915, Illinois Circuit Court for the Third Judicial Circuit, Madison County.