Walmart joins CVS in pulling Zantac — here’s what a top pharmacist recommends you take instead

Concern over the use of Zantac continues to mount as Walmart announced this week that the company will now join Walgreens, Rite Aid and CVS in pulling the heartburn medicine from its shelves.

“The company is taking this action after closely monitoring the recent product alert from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) that ranitidine products may contain a low level of nitrosodimethylamine (NDMA),” a statement from Walmart reads. “Customers who purchased these products may return them to Walmart or Sam’s Club for a refund.” Walmart’s comment are in reference to a Sept. 13 FDA report in which laboratory tests confirmed that small amounts of NDMA, a “substance that could cause cancer” may be present in the drug.

The FDA’s report did not recommend a recall of the drug, noting instead that the levels of NDMA found in Zantac “barely exceed amounts you might expect to find in common foods.” But the news was enough to convince multiple pharmacy chains to pull it from their shelves. Benyam Muluneh, a clinical pharmacist practitioner at the University of North Carolina’s top-rated Eshelman School of Pharmacy, says this isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

RELATED: Take a look at every retailer that has filed for bankruptcy in 2018: 

Every retailer who filed for bankruptcy in 2018
See Gallery
Every retailer who filed for bankruptcy in 2018


Women's apparel and accessories retailer A'Gaci filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in January. 

Photo credit: Getty

Kiko USA

Cosmetics retailer Kiko USA Inc filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in January.

Photo credit: Getty

Tops Markets

Tops Markets operates 174 supermarkets — called Tops Friendly Markets. The company filed for bankruptcy protection in February.

Photo credit: Getty

The Bon-Ton Stores

The Bon-Ton Stores owns multiple department store chains including Bon-Ton, Bergner's, Boston Store, Carson's, Elder-Beerman, Herberger's, and Younkers. The company filed for bankruptcy in February.

Photo credit: Getty

Remington Outdoor

Remington filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in March.

Photo credit: Getty

The Walking Company

The shoe seller The Walking Company, which operates 208 stores in the US, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in March.

Photo credit: Getty


The jewelry chain Claire's filed for bankruptcy in March.

Photo credit: Getty

Southeastern Grocers

Southeastern Grocers, the parent company of the grocery chains Winn-Dixie, Harveys and Bi-Lo, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in March.

Photo credit: AOL

Nine West

Nine West Holdings filed for bankruptcy in April.

Photo credit: Getty


Italian casual-dining chain Bertucci's filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in April.

Photo credit: AOL


The footwear brand filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in May.

Photo credit: Getty

National Stores

The owner of the Fallas chain of discount stores filed for bankruptcy in August.

Photo credit: Facebook


Brookstone filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in August.

Photo credit: Getty

Samuels Jewelers

Samuels Jewelers filed for Chapter 11 with an agreement for bankruptcy financing in August.

Photo credit: Facebook

Toys R Us

Toys R Us filed for bankruptcy in September.

Photo credit: Getty

Mattress Firm

Mattress Firm filed for bankruptcy in October.

Photo credit: PA


Sears filed for bankruptcy in October.

Photo credit: PA


“It’s always a very tough decision for pharmacies to make, but it’s [weighing] benefits versus risk,” Muluneh tells Yahoo Lifestyle. “And given the fact that there are several other options for the management of heartburn, I think it makes sense ... the implications of [the FDA’s report] still need to be further elucidated so that we know what’s happening, but I think that the pharmacies definitely made the right decision in not making it available.”

Now that the medicine is off the shelves at major pharmacy chains nationwide, what should those suffering from gastroesophageal reflux disease and other heartburn-related conditions be taking? Muluneh says the good news is that there are multiple alternatives — but says that the first step should be getting in touch with your healthcare provider to see what they recommend. If you can’t get an appointment with your physician right away, he says you can always talk to your local pharmacist instead.

One option they may present is famotidine (sold under the brand name Pepcid), a drug that — like Zantac — works by blocking the histamine receptors in your stomach. But it’s not necessarily safe for everyone. “Zantac has more data over longterm in pregnant women,” Muluneh says. “That’s why I don't want to just say everyone should switch over without the knowledge of their healthcare provider. There may be some patient-specific reasons.”

If Pepcid isn’t a good option, Muluneh says healthcare providers may recommend short-acting medicines (such as Tums or Gaviscon) or — in more serious cases — something that treats heartburn and acid build-up over the long term, like Prilosec. Muluneh is quick to note that stopping the medicine without guidance is a bad idea. “I think the worst step to take is to self-discontinue and turn to other unapproved herbal supplements that are completely unregulated by the FDA,” he says. “We can not say what's in them. It's best to seek guidance from healthcare providers who know the data and can help make evidence-based recommendations.”

Perhaps most importantly, Muluneh says that those who have been taking Zantac shouldn’t panic. “This type of information is important, but I don’t think the purpose is to raise fear in the public,” he tells Yahoo Lifestyle. “Keep in mind that this is a substance that is actually found in some food that we consume ... so the risk is probably small.”

More from Yahoo Lifestyle: 
Popular heartburn drug may be tainted with cancer-causing chemical 
Walgreens, CVS, Rite Aid halt sale of Zantac out of an 'abundance of caution' over carcinogen link 
New study finds cancer-causing chemicals in tap water

Read Full Story