CVS, Walgreens stop selling heartburn medicine Zantac due to safety concerns

FDA lab tests showed some heartburn pills may increase cancer risk over time.

CVS Health Corp. has suspended sales of the popular heartburn drug Zantac, as well as its own generic, called ranitidine, following a Food and Drug Administration alert earlier this month that the medicine contained a possible carcinogen.

Ranitidine is a common stomach acid drug that's available over the counter and by prescription to people of all ages.

"Zantac brand products and CVS brand ranitidine products have not been recalled, and the FDA is not recommending that patients stop taking ranitidine at this time," the company said in a statement. Customers who previously purchased the heartburn medicine at CVS can return it to the stores for a refund.

Walgreens said Monday it too was "removing Zantac and ranitidine products from our shelves while the FDA continues its review of the products," a spokesperson told ABC News.

Results from FDA lab tests showed some heartburn pills contained an impurity called N-nitrosodimethylamine (NDMA) in small amounts. As a probable carcinogen, NDMA may be capable of increasing cancer risk when taken in high doses over a long period of time.

On Sept. 18, a division of the Swiss pharmaceutical company Novartis said it was halting worldwide distribution of ranitidine.

Canada's federal government has also asked companies to stop distributing ranitidine products while it completes an assessment of the drug to see if it is safe.