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Prescription ranitidine use and population exposure in 6 Canadian provinces, 1996 to 2019: a serial cross-sectional analysis


Background — Ranitidine was the most prescribed histamine-2 receptor antagonist (H2RA) in Canada when recalled in 2019 because of potential carcinogenicity. We sought to compare geographic and temporal patterns in use of prescription ranitidine and 3 other HRAs and estimated population exposure to ranitidine in 6 provinces between 1996 and 2019.

Methods — This population-based serial cross-sectional study used prescription claims for H2RAs dispensed from community pharmacies in Nova Scotia, Ontario, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta and British Columbia. We estimated the period prevalence of ranitidine use per 100 population by province, age category and sex. We estimated exposure to ranitidine between 2015 and 2019 using defined daily doses (DDDs).

Results — Overall, 2.4 million ranitidine prescriptions were dispensed to patients aged 65 years and older, and 1.7 million were dispensed to younger adults. Among older adults, the median period prevalence of ranitidine use among females was 16% (interquartile range [IQR] 13%–27%) higher than among males. Among younger adults, the median prevalence was 50% (IQR 37%–70%) higher among females. Among older adults, between 1996 and 1999, use was highest in Nova Scotia (33%) and Ontario (30%), lower in the prairies (Manitoba [18%], Saskatchewan [26%], Alberta [17%]) and lowest in BC (11%). By 2015–2019, use of ranitidine among older adults dropped by at least 50% in all provinces except BC. We estimate that at least 142 million DDDs of prescribed ranitidine were consumed annually in 6 provinces (2015–2019).

Interpretation — Over the 24-year period in 6 provinces, patients aged 65 years and older were dispensed 2.4 million prescriptions of ranitidine and younger adults were dispensed 1.7 million prescriptions of ranitidine. These estimates of ranitidine exposure can be used for planning studies of cancer risk and identifying target populations for cancer surveillance.



Levy AR, Stock D, Paterson JM, Tamim H, Chateau D, Quail J, Ronksley PE, Carney G, Reynier P, Targownik L; Canadian Network for Observational Drug Effect Studies (CNODES) Investigators. CMAJ Open. 2023; 11(6):E1033-40. Epub 2023 Nov 7.

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