A new public health concern

A new public health scare has surfaced, and this one has nothing to do with e-cigarettes and vaping. Instead, it involves millions of people who take drugs to reduce the amount of acid in their digestive tracts.

A very popular over-the-counter drug, Zantac, has been taken off the shelves by several big store chains, including CVS, Rite Aid and Walgreens. Officials at those companies took the action after concern was expressed by federal health regulators.

Some versions of Zantac, sold both over the counter and by prescription, contain a potentially hazardous contaminant, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration warns. The agency added that some other anti-acid medicines may contain the same substance, called NDMA. It may cause cancer.

As usual, read the proverbial small print, however. FDA officials have emphasized that the amount of NDMA found in Zantac and other anti-acid drugs is only slightly higher than what is found in many common foods.

Many users of various anti-acid drugs take them regularly not merely to avoid discomfort, but to stave off serious health problems such as ulcers. The FDA is not advising people to stop using the medicines.

So, what’s the problem?

Good question, to which an FDA answer should be provided.

Is this another case of companies so worried about lawsuits that they are acting in haste? Is there a genuine health care concern? If so, what should we be doing about it?

Federal officials should address those issues and more expeditiously. This is a scare likely to make many people sick to their stomachs, both figuratively and literally.


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