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    What you should know if you take Zantac or ranitidine

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If you take Zantac or its generic version, ranitidine, you may have noticed that you can't find it on the shelves at the pharmacy. That's because drug-makers recalled it due to safety concerns. The Food and Drug Administration is investigating the medication after discovering that some samples of ranitidine contain trace elements of N-nitrosodimethylamine (NDMA).

"There have been reports out of Europe of one company having contaminated elements of the ranitidine and nitrosamines, which is a cancerous-causing agent," says Dr. Jeffrey Alexander, a Mayo Clinic gastroenterologist.

Watch: Dr. Jeffery Alexander talks about ranitidine.

Journalists: Broadcast-quality sound bites with Dr. Alexander are in the downloads at the end of this post. Please "Courtesy: Mayo Clinic News Network."

NDMA is classified as a probable human carcinogen. It's a natural contaminant found in water and some foods, including meat, dairy products and vegetables.

"We found this contaminant in some other drugs previously. Right now, it's only been reported with one company in Europe that makes prescription ranitidine, says Dr. Alexander. "People seem to be withdrawing their drug, and we're looking into the process. And time will tell."

What is ranitidine?

Histamine H2-receptor antagonists, also known as H2-blockers work by decreasing the amount of acid produced by the stomach. Ranitidine is an H2-blocker.

"It's an H2 blocker that blocks one of the triggers of the proton pump," says Dr. Alexander. H2-blockers are available both over-the-counter and by prescription.

If you are concerned, Dr. Alexander recommends making a switch.

"For right now, if you're taking over-the-counter Zantac or prescription Zantac, which is ranitidine, talk to your care provider and switch to Pepcid, which is famotidine," says Dr. Alexander. "It's a very similar drug and a good replacement."