(July 15, 2020) A New Orleans woman filed a lawsuit last month against the makers of Zantac over her leukemia cancer diagnosis. Her lawsuit petition says that she was exposed to high levels of the chemical byproduct N-Nitrosodimethylamine (NDMA) produced by ranitidine. She alleges that the drug makers of Zantac failed to warn her and other consumers, as well as the medical community, about Zantac’s cancer risks.
Related: Zantac Recall Cancer Scare
Andela Piacun, along with her spouse, Marinko Piacun, filed the Zantac Lawsuit Complaint in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida on June 11, 2020. Their petition names Boehringer Ingelheim, Sanofi US Services, Inc., Chattem, Inc., Pfizer and Perrigo Company PLC as defendants in the case.
Zantac contains Ranitidine as a listed active pharmaceutical ingredient. Zantac has been sold for decades as both a prescription and an over-the-counter (OTC) treatment for heartburn and acid reflux. But last year, a pharmacy discovered that ranitidine is inherently unstable. Studies have shown it can convert to NDMA when stored at high temperatures or when it’s being digested in the human body. Since that discovery, most Zantac versions have been recalled from the market.
FDA “Standards” for NDMA
FDA has established that the standard maximum daily exposure to NDMA should be only 96 nanograms. Testing, however, has shown that some 150 mg Zantac OTC pills contain more than 3 million nanograms of NDMA. Exposure to NDMA, a known human carcinogen, has been linked to breast cancer, kidney cancer, leukemia and other cancers. Long-term Zantac users are now believed to be most at risk.
Andela Piacun began taking Zantac in 2016, according to her lawsuit petition. She used the drug through 2019. Though diagnosed with leukemia in 2018, she did not learn of Zantac’s link with until on or about August 2019.
The lawsuit alleges that drug makers intentionally failed to warn patients, the medical community, and federal regulators about increased cancer risks to Zantac NDMA users.
Petition: Drug Makers deceived Patients and Doctors
The Piacun lawsuit reads in part: “This was not done by accident or through justifiable negligence. Rather, Defendants knew that they increase profits by convincing consumers that Zantac was harmless to humans, and that full disclosure of the true risks of Zantac would limit their returns. Defendants’ pursuit was accomplished not only through their misleading label, but through a comprehensive scheme of selective misleading research and testing, false advertising, and deceptive omissions as more fully alleged throughout this pleading.”
Causes of Action
The causes of action in the Piacun lawsuit include design defect, failure to warn, negligence, breach of warranties. The lawsuit seeks both compensatory and punitive damages.
Hundreds of similar Zantac lawsuits have been filed in recent months. Each claims that exposure to NDMA in Zantac caused cancer among long-term users.
Lawyers handling Zantac cancer claims have continued to review and file them in state courts across the country. The size of the litigation is expected to continue to increase. Because Zantac was so popular, and because so many people took it for longer periods of time, the litigation could include the filing of thousands of complaints.
Florida MDL for Zantac Claims
To handle the growing number of Zantac lawsuit claims being filed throughout the federal court system, the U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation (MDL court) recently ordered that all Zantac claims will be centralized and consolidated in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida. The MDL court litigation will be overseen by U.S. District Judge Robin L. Rosenberg – an Obama appointee — for the coordinated discovery and pretrial proceedings.
The MDL court, as explained on its web site:
“The United States Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation, known informally as the MDL Panel, was created by an Act of Congress in 1968 – 28 U.S.C. §1407.
The job of the Panel is to (1) determine whether civil actions pending in different federal districts involve one or more common questions of fact such that the actions should be transferred to one federal district for coordinated or consolidated pretrial proceedings; and (2) select the judge or judges and court assigned to conduct such proceedings.
The purposes of this transfer or “centralization” process are to avoid duplication of discovery, to prevent inconsistent pretrial rulings, and to conserve the resources of the parties, their counsel and the judiciary. Transferred actions not terminated in the transferee district are remanded to their originating transferor districts by the Panel at or before the conclusion of centralized pretrial proceedings.”
While some plaintiff’s lawyers are pleased to file their cases in an MDL court, others feel that filing state court actions for plaintiffs gives them a greater chance at receiving proper compensation for their injuries. Consequently, several Zantac lawsuits have also been filed in state courts throughout the country.