GSK seeks appeal of Delaware decision allowing Zantac cases to continue

By Brendan Pierson

(Reuters) -GSK and other drugmakers asked a Delaware court on Monday for permission to appeal a ruling allowing more than 70,000 lawsuits claiming that the heartburn drug Zantac causes cancer.

If Delaware Superior Court Judge Vivian Medinilla grants the motion, which is also joined by Pfizer, Sanofi and Boehringer Ingelheim, the appeal will go directly to the Delaware Supreme Court. If it denies it, GSK said, the companies will ask the Supreme Court directly to hear the case.

The companies, all of which sold Zantac at different times, argue that Medinilla should have granted their motion to prevent the plaintiffs from presenting expert testimony that Zantac causes cancer. This would have effectively ended all lawsuits in Delaware, where the vast majority of Zantac lawsuits nationwide are pending.

Also Monday, GSK announced that a woman who claimed to have developed breast cancer as a result of taking Zantac had dropped her case shortly before the trial began.

GSK said in a statement that it had not resolved its dispute with the woman, Eugenia Kasza. A lawyer for Kasza did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Kasza’s case would have been the second to go to trial against Zantac, after the first ended last month with a victory for GSK and Boehringer Ingelheim. Another case was thrown out by a judge shortly before the trial began on May 23.

Sanofi has settled about 4,000 Zantac cases, and the Financial Times reported last month that Pfizer had settled more than 10,000 cases.

First approved in 1983, Zantac became the world’s best-selling drug in 1988 and one of the first to surpass $1 billion in annual sales. It was initially marketed by a precursor to GSK, and then sold successively to other companies.

In 2019, some manufacturers and pharmacies halted sales of Zantac after a chemical called NDMA, known to cause cancer, was detected in some pills. Some tests have shown that Zantac’s active ingredient, ranitidine, can break down into NDMA over time or when exposed to heat.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration asked manufacturers to remove the drug from the market in 2020. In the face of mounting lawsuits, drugmakers have argued that there is no evidence that Zantac exposed users to harmful levels of NDMA.

The companies won a significant victory in 2022, when another judge threw out about 50,000 lawsuits making similar claims that had been consolidated in federal court in Florida. Some plaintiffs are appealing this decision.

(Reporting by Brendan Pierson in New York; editing by Alexia Garamfalvi, Bill Berkrot and Leslie Adler))