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Patients Stuck as NDA Investigates Common Ulcer Drug

The drug, sold generically as ranitidine, was first recalled by the US Food and Drug Agency in September after preliminary tests found that it contained cancer-causing impurities and was therefore not safe for human consumption.
Zantac is being investigated for containing cancer causing substances

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Persons suffering from Peptic Ulcers and heartburn are struggling to find medicines, following the recall of Zantac-an antacid used in the treatment of the two conditions.  

The drug, sold generically as ranitidine, was first recalled by the US Food and Drug Agency in September after preliminary tests found that it contained cancer-causing impurities and was therefore not safe for human consumption.  

Subsequently, Drug companies, Novartis, GlaxoSmithKline and Apotex announced that they were recalling all of their generic ranitidine products in all markers. Uganda’s National Drug Authority-NDA has asked all importers of other Ranitidine brands to halt importation and distribution of the drug on the African Market. It also advised doctors to prescribe alternative medicine to patients.  

Brian Sekayombya, the principal regulatory officer in charge of medicines says the drug authority recalled the drug after they got a tip from the Food and Drug Authority that Ranitidine was discovered to have high traces of cancer-causing substances.   

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Sekayombya says that at NDA, has asked the manufacturers of other Ranitidine brands to test because they want to make sure that all drugs are safe. 

“According to our records, we no longer have any stock of Zantac on the market. The batch that was imported into Uganda was supposed to expire in March 2019. However, we want to test other brands of Ranitidine to make sure that the NDMA levels in it are safe for human consumption,” Sekayombya said.  

According to Sekayombya, investigations are still one going at the moment. 

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Freda Tayebwa, a Ugandan who has suffered from Peptic ulcers for years says the decision to withdraw the drug has left them with no options. 

“Getting Zantac has been hard recently. All the pharmacies I normally go to say that the drug is no longer imported into the country. I was advised to use Rantab as an alternative but even that is hard to get,” Tayebwa narrates. 

When URN visited pharmacies, it discovered that some pharmacies no longer had any stock of Ranitidine. 

Fred Kalungi, an employee at Friecca Pharmacy says that they withdrew all ranitidine products following the recall of the drug. 

“Zantac has been the most common type of medicine sold for ulcers but it has been out of stock for some time now. We stopped selling other forms of Ranitidine after the recall. We are now offering patients Cimetidine,” Kalungi explains. 

At First Pharmacy, Maureen Mirembe a pharmacist says that they are selling other forms of Ranitidine but not Zantac.  “Distributors are no longer bringing the drug. But we have other medication from the UK. It is another form of Ranitidine,” Mirembe said.