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More versions of Zantac recalled over exposure to cancer-linked chemical

The bottling line at Apotex's North York packaging operations is photographed on March 29 2018.
The bottling line at Apotex's North York packaging operations is photographed on March 29 2018. (Fred Lum/The Globe and Mail)

Health Canada said Wednesday that versions of heartburn medication ranitidine – known commonly as Zantac – are being recalled by four more companies over concerns that the drug may have been made with unsafe levels of a chemical linked to an increased risk of cancer.

The companies recalling the drugs are Apotex Inc, Pro Doc Limitée, Sanis Health Inc and Sivem Pharmaceuticals ULC.

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Earlier this month in an announcement from Health Canada, drug companies were ordered to cease distribution of the drug after unsafe levels of an impurity, called N-nitrosodimethylamine (NDMA), was detected in some ranitidine products.

Prolonged exposure to unsafe levels of NDMA, classified as a “probable human carcinogen”, could increase the risk of cancer, according to Health Canada.

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The drug is commonly used to reduce acid in the stomach, to treat heartburn and indigestion. Branded versions of the drug, such as Sanofi’s SA Zantac, as well as its generic versions are available over-the-counter and with a prescription.

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Drug company Sandoz Canada previously recalled its oral prescriptions in Canada and other countries earlier this month, after above normal levels of the chemical were tested in its products.

American and European health officials earlier this month said that they were reviewing the safety of the drug.

A list of ranitidine products sold in Canada is available in the Health Canada database.

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