Sanofi prevails over Boehringer Ingelheim in legal battle over Zantac liabilities

When Sanofi made an asset swap with Boehringer Ingelheim in 2016, the French company acquired BI’s healthcare business, which included heartburn medicine Zantac.

Years later, with Boehringer facing litigation in the U.S. from users of the heartburn treatment, the company has tried to gain indemnification from the French drugmaker for future liabilities on those cancer claims.

On Tuesday, an International Chamber of Commerce arbitration tribunal rejected Boehringer’s attempt, Sanofi said in a press release, adding that the decision is final and can’t be appealed.

BI said in a statement that it has “taken note” of the decision and that because the arbitration is “subject to confidentiality provisions, we cannot comment further.”

The decision comes as Zantac manufacturers—including GSK, Pfizer and other makers of generics—have strengthened their legal defenses. In December of last year, a Florida federal judge ruled that claims against the companies were unsound. That decision scuttled approximately 50,000 federal multidistrict claims.

Still left to decide are thousands of cases that remain in state courts. Questions about Zantac arose in 2019 when online pharmacy Valisure discovered high levels of N-nitrosodimethylamine, triggering a recall. In 2020, the FDA asked all makers of the drug to voluntarily recall their products.

Sanofi “remains confident that the defense of the underlying U.S. Zantac litigation is very strong,” the company said, pointing to findings from the FDA and European Medicines Agency that found no evidence that Zantac’s active ingredient ranitidine causes cancer.

“Sanofi believes that any appeal by plaintiffs of the MDL ruling has a low probability of success,” the company said. “Tens of thousands of claimants who were once a part of this MDL litigation chose to abandon their claims or else withdrew early from the MDL, either filing in state court or not re-filing at all.”