17 | ENE | 2020
Mexican companies sold ranitidine that could cause cancer
Authorities have recalled the drug and banned its use in Mexico - Photo: Michael Coronna/REUTERS

Mexican companies sold ranitidine that could cause cancer

20/11/2019
14:32
Teresa Moreno
Mexico City
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Authorities found a possible carcinogen substance in ranitidine

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According to researcher Gilberto Castañeda from the Cinvestav, at least 42 pharmaceutical companies that produce ranitidine purchase raw materials contaminated with NDMA, a substance that is believed to cause cancer, to produce the medicine. The contaminated ranitidine was purchased in India and China, where it is sold at a lower price because it is not entirely purified.

Gilberto Castañeda explained that there was a worldwide alert about NDMA pollution in ranitidine and that in Mexico, the pollution affected at least 42 Mexican companies that produce or commercialize the medicine in its generic version, mainly to cut costs.

The researcher explained that in order to produce ranitidine, a drug that helps to treat ulcers and heartburn, pharmaceutics buy chemical substances that derive from petroleum in the international market.

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These substances are then synthesized until they obtain ranitidine. During these chemical processes, polluters such as N-Nitrosodimethylamine (NDMA) are created, which should be eliminated through purification processes, which is expensive.

Gilberto Castañeda explains that “in order to save and cut costs, many companies purchase the raw materials from suppliers in countries such as India and China; these companies, so that it's cheaper, carry out incomplete purification processes, then the NDMA concentration is above the accepted limits. It was detected in several countries and the alarm went off immediately.”

He added that if you want to save money, they “carry out the processes without the necessary quality controls; they can save up to 50%, which has a direct impact on Mexican companies.”

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This doesn't mean that the Mexican companies purchase the polluted drug to save costs, but rather that they don't carry out the necessary process to verify the quality of the medicine.

In October 2019, the Federal Commission for the Protection against Sanitary Risks (Cofepris) asked people to stop consuming ranitidine after confirming the drug contained NDMA.

In October 2019, there was a worldwide alert when the FDA announced that it had found NDMA in ranitidine. Countries such as the U.S., France, Spain, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Germany, and Sweden ordered that the sale of this drug was halted.

What is ranitidine?

Ranitidine is a drug used to decrease stomach acid production and used to treat peptic ulcer disease, gastroesophageal reflux disease, among other illnesses.

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