Drugs such as proton pump inhibitors, commonly called PPIs, and ranitidine, which is widely distributed under the brand name Zantac, can be used to manage the production of acid in the stomach. It also controls conditions such as ulcers in the esophagus, duodenum, and gastroesophageal reflux disease, or GERD.
Zantac is not a PPI. PPIs block enzymes in the wall of the stomach that produce acid. This acid can cause ulcers in the stomach, esophagus, and duodenum. PPIs are often used with antibiotics for ridding the body of certain bacteria that, along with acids in the stomach, cause ulcers. In the absence of such drugs, ulcers may not heal and the lining of the stomach may erode, causing further complications.
Overview of Zantac
Zantac, on the other hand, is made using ranitidine which blocks histamine. Histamine is a chemical that is released by cells in the body that suffer injury, inflammation, or allergic reactions. Histamine can stimulate the secretion of gastric juices, which are the acids in the stomach. It can also reduce blood pressure, dilate the blood vessels, and increase the permeability of the blood vessels. This means fluids, nutrients, and chemicals–including stomach acid–can more easily pass through the blood vessels, which can lead to ulcers.
To reiterate both points a different way, PPIs directly block the enzymes that produce acid in the stomach, while Zantac, which is not a PPI, blocks the compounds that stimulate acid production and the release of histamine which can lead to an acceleration of internal damage in the stomach.
Differences Between Zantac and PPIs
PPIs come in different strengths and different brand names. Some are available over the counter and others require a prescription. When Zantac was first released, it required a prescription, but for the last three decades, it has been available over the counter. They are both widely used to treat stomach ulcers, acid reflux, and esophagus ulcers. They are usually taken before meals, although Zantac works better at night, and PPIs tend to work well when taken before breakfast.
Because PPIs and Zantac both target cells, enzymes, compounds, and chemicals in the stomach, they tend to have side effects that affect the bowels and digestion. These side effects include gas, diarrhea, and constipation. Other side effects include nausea, vomiting, headaches, abdominal pain, and rashes.
Despite these side effects, PPIs and Zantac are both quite well tolerated. Millions of individuals used them daily until the recent pull of Zantac from store shelves after reports that carcinogenic toxins may be present in the ranitidine used in Zantac.
Long-Term Risks of Taking PPIs and Zantac
Many risks associated with both PPIs as well as Zantac relate to their misuse. As long as an approved drug is used as directed, it is considered to be safe. However, a few studies discovered connections between the long-term use of PPIs and Zantac and the absence of certain bacteria in the gut that aid in nutrient absorption.
According to the Cleveland Clinic, regular use of medications to treat acid issues in the stomach affects the ability of certain bacteria in the stomach to survive. In their absence, the body no longer effectively absorbs certain nutrients. PPIs and Zantac may also react with medications in the stomach to produce serious adverse effects. Because of this, always be clear and upfront with your doctor about the issues you face and any drugs you may be taking if you wish to take Zantac or a PPI for your ulcers or GERD.
For example, PPIs can alter the ability of the liver to break down certain medications, causing those drugs to build up to toxic levels in the liver. Also, since Zantac can inhibit absorption, you may unknowingly cancel the effects of other medications you may need if you take them along with Zantac.
Finally, various cancers are linked to the use of Zantac, including liver, lung, kidney, bladder, and colon cancer. It is believed that NDMA, which is a toxic carcinogenic, either contaminated the ranitidine used in Zantac or that Zantac naturally breaks down under certain conditions to release dangerous levels of NDMA. This was the impetus behind recent action by the U.S. Food & Drug Administration in issuing a nationwide recall of Zantac until further studies could be performed on the possible link between Zantac, NDMA, and cancer.
When to See a Doctor
You should speak with your doctor if you took Zantac in the past or require new medications to treat your acid reflux or stomach ulcers. You must also speak to your doctor if you notice any health changes such as:
- A loss of appetite
- Weight loss
- Unexplained weakness
- Dark or bloody stool
- Dark or bloody urine
- Abdominal pain
Even though Zantac is not a PPI, if you used it in the past and experience any of these symptoms, call Pintas & Mullins Law Firm for a free case evaluation at (800) 794-0444.