Zantac Lawsuits Given Green Light Despite Drugmakers’ Opposition

More than 70,000 lawsuits alleging that the popular heartburn drug Zantac causes cancer to have been given the go-ahead to proceed in Delaware. In a pivotal ruling on Friday, Judge Vivian Medinilla of the Delaware Superior Court allowed expert witnesses to testify in court that Zantac may cause cancer despite strong objections from the drug’s former makers, including GSK, Pfizer, Sanofi, and Boehringer Ingelheim.

5 Key Points

  • A Delaware judge has allowed over 70,000 Zantac lawsuits to move forward.
  • The ruling permits expert witnesses to testify that Zantac may cause cancer.
  • Former Zantac makers argued that the expert opinions lacked scientific support.
  • Judge Medinilla stated that juries should decide the strength of each side’s scientific arguments.
  • The decision is a significant setback for the drugmakers, who maintain that no reliable evidence shows Zantac caused cancer.

Concerns Over Zantac’s Safety Lead to Lawsuits

The Zantac litigation began in 2019 when some manufacturers and pharmacies halted sales of the drug after the potentially carcinogenic chemical NDMA was detected in some pills. Tests indicated that Zantac’s active ingredient, ranitidine, could degrade into NDMA over time or when exposed to heat. As a result, numerous lawsuits were filed by individuals claiming they developed cancer after taking Zantac. The plaintiffs alleged that the drugmakers knew, or should have known, about the potential cancer risk associated with ranitidine and failed to warn consumers adequately.

Drugmakers Plan to Appeal the Decision

The ruling dealt a blow to the former Zantac makers, who had argued that the expert witnesses’ opinions lacked scientific support. GSK, Pfizer, and Sanofi have all stated that they disagree with the decision and intend to appeal. They continue to maintain that there is no reliable evidence demonstrating that Zantac caused cancer. Despite their objections, the ruling brings the plaintiffs one step closer to having their cases heard in court.

The Complex Landscape of Zantac Litigation

Judge Medinilla presides over most of the nearly 80,000 Zantac cases currently pending in the United States. In addition to the Delaware cases, the drugmakers are facing approximately 4,000 claims in California state court and around 2,000 in various other state courts nationwide.

The drugmakers recently secured a victory in the first Zantac case to go to trial in Chicago, where a jury rejected an Illinois woman’s claim that the drug caused her colon cancer. However, the Delaware ruling represents a significant company setback and may impact future proceedings.

Previous Federal Court Dismissal of Zantac Cases

In 2022, the drugmakers achieved a notable victory when a federal judge in Florida dismissed about 50,000 consolidated Zantac lawsuits. The judge concluded that the opinions of the plaintiffs’ expert witnesses, different from those in the Delaware case, were not supported by sound science. The plaintiffs are currently appealing that ruling.

As the Zantac litigation continues to unfold, the recent Delaware ruling has the potential to shape the course of future proceedings and may have significant implications for the drugmakers involved.