Trusted newspaper columnist and internist Dr. Roach recently fielded a question by a 78-year-old man who wondered if his years-long use of the heartburn drug Zantac may put him at risk for side effects.

The man, referred to only as L.L., said he’d been taking 300mg of ranitidine, the active ingredient in Zantac, just before bedtime for the past seven to eight years. “It was prescribed to treat reflux,” he wrote. “As you know, this product has been recalled. I wonder if I could be suffering any adverse effects from my sustained usage.”

L.L. has a right to be concerned. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in April ordered all Zantac and other products containing ranitidine off the market because the medication contained NDMA, short for N-nitrosodimethylamine, a probable human carcinogen. Studies with laboratory animals have linked NDMA exposure to cancerous tumors, but no studies have been published to date to determine the risk to humans. With many drugs, higher dosages and longer use increase the likelihood of the medication side effects.

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