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FDA found traces of a known carcinogen in a popular heartburn medication — now what?

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Packages and pills of Zantac
Packages and pills of Zantac, a popular medication which decreases stomach acid production and prevents heartburn, sit on a table on Thursday in New York City. The FDA recently announced that it has found small amounts of a probable carcinogen in versions of Zantac and other forms of ranitidine.
Drew Angerer | Getty Images

There's enough concern over a widely-used heartburn drug that its maker has stopped distributing the generic version. You may know ranitidine by its brand name Zantac. Earlier this month the Food and Drug Administration reported it found traces of a known carcinogen — NDMA — in the drug.

So, what do people who take the medication need to know?

“You constantly have to weigh the benefit of being on [certain medications] versus the potential harms that it may cause. In a case like this, because there are easy alternatives, I think you say, look, it’s probably not worth taking an even small chance with this,” Dr. Jon Hallberg, medical director of the University of Minnesota Physicians Mill City Clinic, told MPR News host Tom Crann. 

But he said the level of carcinogen found may be low enough that patients who only respond to ranitidine take that risk. He said people in that situation should talk to their doctors.

To hear more, including which medications would work as a replacement for ranitidine, hit play on the audio player above.