PHARMACEUTICALS

Novartis halts generic Zantac distribution

Novartis AG’s Sandoz unit said Wednesday it was halting distribution of its versions of the drug Zantac in all its markets, including the United States and Canada, after contaminants were found in the heartburn drug.

The Swiss drugmaker’s steps follow an investigation by U.S. and European regulators into the presence of the impurity, N-nitrosodimethylamine (NDMA), in the drug, ranitidine, and a distribution halt in Canada announced late Tuesday.

Health Canada said it had requested makers of the drug to stop distribution as it gathers more information and consults with world health regulators.

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Neither the U.S. Food and Drug Administration nor the European Medicines Agency had asked patients to stop taking the drug when the regulators said last week they were reviewing the safety of ranitidine.

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Novartis said in a statement its step was precautionary and adequate measures “will be implemented in alignment with relevant health authorities as required.”

— Reuters

HOUSING

Apartment construction surges

The pace of U.S. home building jumped 12.3 percent last month to a 12-year high on a surge in apartment construction.

The Commerce Department said Wednesday that housing starts came in at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1.36 million, the most since June 2007 and up from a revised 1.22 million, as builders overcame a shortage of skilled workers and available land.

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Construction of single-family homes rose 4.4 percent to 919,000. Building of apartments and condominiums surged 30.9 percent — the biggest monthly gain since December 2016 — to 424,000.

In another good sign for the housing market, permits, a signal of future building, rose 7.7 percent to 1.42 million, the highest since May 2007.

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— Associated Press

Also in Business

California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) on Wednesday signed broad labor legislation that aims to give wage and benefit protections to ride-hail drivers at companies such as Uber and Lyft and to workers across other industries. The closely watched proposal could have national implications as lawmakers, businesses and unions confront the changing nature of work and the rise of the gig economy. The legislation makes it harder for companies to classify workers as independent contractors instead of employees, who are entitled to minimum wage and benefits such as workers' compensation.

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Southwest Airlines won the dismissal of a proposed class-action lawsuit seeking damages for stranded passengers on hundreds of winter flights it was forced to cancel because it ran out of de-icer fluid. U.S. District Judge Sara Ellis in Chicago ruled on Tuesday that Southwest's ticketing terms did not imply that the Dallas-based carrier had a legal duty to always stock enough fluid. She also said the terms explicitly excused Southwest from liability, because passenger safety could be jeopardized if planes that had not been de-iced took off in winter weather.

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The top U.S. consumer watchdog will keep consumer complaints against financial firms public despite pressure from the companies, but the agency said on Wednesday it will make changes to the way those complaints are filed. The decision to retain the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau's public complaints database follows a review initiated last year. The CFPB complaints database, which went public in 2012 to boost transparency of consumer issues, is a key source of investigations by the agency.

Pennsylvania is joining more than a dozen states that have filed a lawsuit aimed at stopping T-Mobile’s $26 billion purchase of Sprint, New York Attorney General Letitia James said Wednesday. Attorneys general from 17 states and the District of Columbia have signed on to stop the merger, which they say will lead to higher prices for consumers. The lawsuit is being led by New York and California. The U.S. District Court in Manhattan has ordered that the trial be delayed to Dec. 9.

— From news services

Coming today

8:30 a.m.: Commerce Department releases current account trade deficit for the second quarter.

10 a.m.: National Association of Realtors releases existing-home sales for August; Freddie Mac releases weekly mortgage rates.

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