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(Reuters) — Shares in GSK, Sanofi and Haleon fell sharply on Thursday, following declines earlier this week, amid growing investor concerns about U.S. litigation focused on a heartburn drug that contained a probable carcinogen.
Around 1400 GMT, GSK shares were down 6.8%, Sanofi's were down 6.9% and Haleon's down 5.6%.
GSK and Sanofi at various points sold the drug — originally branded as Zantac — which U.S. regulators ordered off the market in 2020. Haleon, spun out as an independent listed company last month, comprises consumer health assets once partly owned by GSK.
The prospect of impending litigation is not new. Among other disclosures, the recently-listed Haleon had highlighted the risk of such lawsuits in its prospectus.
The topic has "arrived in investor consciousness in recent days it seems but been rumbling on in the background for a few years," Deutsche Bank analysts wrote in a note.
Zantac became the world’s best-selling medicine in 1988 and one of the first-ever drugs to top $1 billion in annual sales.
However, concerns around the compound — known chemically as ranitidine — containing potential cancer-causing impurities started to emerge in 2018, well after generic versions of the medicine had been launched by a variety of manufacturers.
More than 2,000 legal cases related to Zantac have been filed in the United States, analysts say, with the first trial beginning later this month.