On September 28, CVS Pharmacy announced that it will remove some heartburn drugs from shelves until further notice, after the Food and Drug Administration pointed out that they may contain a carcinogenic ingredient. It includes ranitidine, and CVS will stop selling its trademark version and the more popular brand version Zantac. Although the tests are ongoing, the FDA has determined that ranitidine contains N-nitrosodimethylamine (NDMA), which, according to CVS, is a "probable human carcinogen."
CVS's voluntary suspension of sale is a "better safe than sorry." The FDA has not issued a formal recall of Zantac / ranitidine or even suggested that users stop taking the drug. In its statement, CVS states that "the levels [of NDMA] that the FDA finds in ranitidine from preliminary tests barely exceed those found in common foods". According to the Toxic Substances and Diseases Register, a division of the US Department of Health and Human Services, NDMA is also found in tobacco, sausages, beer, fish, cheese, and even in the air we breathe in [PDF].
Ranitidine is a type of H2 receptor blocker that lowers heartburn and reflux symptoms by preventing the release of excess acid by gastric cells. It is not the only H2 receptor blocker on the market, so this may be a good time to consult your doctor or pharmacist to switch to another such as pepcid (famotidine) or tagamet (cimetidine).
The FDA said in a statement that it will continue to investigate the potential risk of taking ranitidine and share its results, if available.