Pfizer Settles 10,000 Lawsuits After Heartburn Medicine Linked to Cancer

Big Pharma company Pfizer confirmed this week that it is going to settle more than 10,000 lawsuits.

All of the lawsuits revolve around the Zantac product that the company produces. People have alleged that Pfizer didn’t warn them about the possible risks of cancer that the product causes.

Zantac was a medication that helped people experiencing heartburn and was featured in many different TV commercials.

In 2020, though, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration warned that the drug, as well as the generic version called ranitidine, shouldn’t be on the shelves any longer. This came after the agency found a contaminant called NDMA that is linked to this medication.

NDMA is a substance that is known to cause cancer.

As a result of that, thousands of lawsuits were filed in different state courts throughout the country, as Bloomberg News reported. Those lawsuits are now set to be settled.

Pfizer didn’t disclose details of what those settlements will include. These settlements also don’t put to bed all of the potential exposure the company faces about claims linked to Zantac.

In a statement, the company said:

“Pfizer has explored and will continue to explore opportunistic settlements of certain cases if appropriate, and has settled certain cases. … The company has not sold a Zantac product in more than 15 years and did so only for a limited period of time.”

The New York Post reported separately that Glaxo Holdings held the original patent for the active ingredient of ranitidine, which it obtained in 1983 when it brought the product to market. That company is now part of the larger GlaxoSmithKline company.

Once that expired in 1997, though, Pfizer and some other pharmaceutical companies began to develop generic versions of it.

Once the FDA recommended that the product be removed from shelves, the lawsuits started to be filed — not just against Pfizer but also against Boehringer Ingelheim, Sanofi and GSK.

Just last month, Sanofi settled 4,000 such lawsuits. According to Bloomberg, those settlements will see the company pay $100 million, which equates to an average of about $25,000 for every plaintiff.

Despite these settlements, there are still more than 20,000 lawsuits pending in Delaware state courts.

In Delaware alone, there are as many as 70,000 such cases against Sanofi and other Big Pharma companies.

As Sanofi said in a statement of its own:

“Sanofi is settling these cases, not because we believe the claims have any merit, but rather to avoid the expense and ongoing distraction of the litigation.”

GSK similarly settled many of the lawsuits that were filed against the company regarding the product.

NDMA is a common byproduct that happens during multiple industrial processes. This includes when rocket fuel is made. As the Daily Mail reported:

“NDMA is a ‘forever chemical,’ meaning that it doesn’t degrade, or break down, naturally in our bodies and is believed to cause DNA damage.”