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More recalls expected after Zantac ripped from shelves over cancer risk

PITTSBURGH — Popular drugs like Zantac and blood pressure medication have been recalled over and over again, and local doctors warn it's going to keep happening.

Diane Otto said she and her husband both took the popular heartburn relief medicine Zantac.

"I've been taking it for years, so I figure if I was going to get cancer, I'd have it by now," Otto said. "We did switch because you can't get it. It's off the shelves."

Zantac and generic versions of ranitidine are the latest drugs recalled because of a possible cancer-causing chemical known as NDMA. That's the same chemical that led to dozens of recalls involving blood pressure medication.

>>RELATED: CVS pulls all Zantac, CVS-branded ranitidine products over possible NDMA contamination

Doctors in the Pittsburgh area believe there will be more.

"This may be the tip of the iceberg because we only found out about this a year ago, and the FDA is starting to test other medications," Dr. Raghu Tadikamalla, a cardiologist for Allegheny Health Network, said.

Tadikamalla stresses the exposure to the chemical is low, but patients still need to be aware.

>>RELATED: Heartburn drug Zantac, generic versions could contain small amounts of possible carcinogen

"I think from time to time we're going to find more lots of different medications being recalled," Tadikamalla said. "We're going to have to deal with it and go with it as time goes on."

Experts say NDMA is a chemical created during a new manufacturing process. Drug companies and the FDA didn't know it could happen, so they weren't testing for it.


Dr. Blair Jobe, with AHN's Esophageal and Lung Institute, stresses people shouldn't overreact.

"I don't think there's cause for extreme alarm at this point," Jobe said. "The amount that's contained in Zantac is equivalent to some of the daily basis, particularly smoked foods."

That's some relief to Otto, but she still would like more information from the FDA.

"I would hope to have somebody -- or the FDA would be on top of this -- monitor the situation a little bit more closely," Otto said.

Jobe said patients who suffer from heartburn should consult their doctor, as there is plenty of new treatments to help people, from surgery to alternative medicine.