GSK Allegedly Aware of Zantac Cancer Risk, First Trial Attorneys Claim

GSK Allegedly Aware of Zantac Cancer Risk, First Trial Attorneys Claim

The Legal Battle Over Zantac Heartburn Pills:

A Woman Claims Colon Cancer Was Caused by the Discontinued Drug

On May 2, attorneys for a woman who claims that her colon cancer was caused by the now-discontinued heartburn drug Zantac told a jury in Chicago that pharmaceutical companies GlaxoSmithKline and Boehringer Ingelheim knew that the product could cause cancer if it wasn’t handled properly but failed to warn the public.

The Allegations:

The plaintiff’s lawyer, Mikal Watts, argued that the companies knew that Zantac’s active ingredient, ranitidine, would turn into a cancer-causing substance called NDMA as it aged or was exposed to extreme temperatures, but did not ensure it was properly handled by transporters, distributors, and stores. This alleged negligence led to the drug’s eventual removal from the market after NDMA was found in samples of the drug.

The Trial:

Valadez’s case is one of tens of thousands against GSK, Boehringer Ingelheim, and other pharmaceutical companies, which have worried investors in recent years. It will offer the first test of whether the cancer claims in the long-running litigation will persuade a jury since all cases previously set for trial settled or were dropped. GSK and Boehringer Ingelheim are the only defendants in the trial, after other companies settled. The plaintiff’s counsel suggested that GSK and Boehringer Ingelheim had covered up changes in the pills’ color as they degraded. “They know we’re not going to take a product that looks bad, so they put a paint job on it,” he said.

The Defense’s Argument:

Attorneys for GSK and Boehringer Ingelheim countered that Zantac was repeatedly proven to be safe and effective and that no scientific or medical study had connected Zantac to cancer. GSK’s attorney argued that there is “no objective evidence linking Ms. Valadez’s cancer to Zantac.” Valadez, who said she took Zantac every day for at least 18 years, had a host of risk factors that made her more likely to develop colon cancer, the attorney said.

Zantac’s History:

First approved in 1983, Zantac became the world’s best-selling medicine in 1988 and one of the first-ever drugs to top $1 billion in annual sales. It was originally marketed by a forerunner of GSK and later sold successively to other companies. In 2020, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration asked drugmakers to pull Zantac and its generic versions off the market after NDMA was found in samples of the drug. Thousands of lawsuits began piling up in federal and state courts. The companies notched a significant win in 2022 when a judge dismissed about 50,000 claims centralized in federal court in Florida. More than 70,000 Zantac cases remain pending in the U.S., many of them in Delaware state court where a judge is considering similar arguments from drugmakers that plaintiff’s expert testimony should be kept out.


The legal battle over Zantac heartburn pills has raised many questions about pharmaceutical companies’ obligation to warn the public of potential harm. While the jury’s decision in Valadez’s case will not impact all of the ongoing Zantac lawsuits, it will set an important precedent and could affect the outcome of future trials.

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