Januvia (sitagliptin) is a new type-2 diabetes drug that has been linked to a potential risk of thyroid cancer. Several diabetes medications that are similar to Januvia have also been linked to this risk. Despite growing evidence linking Januvia and thyroid cancer, many people are concerned that the warnings about this risk are still inadequate.
What is Januvia?
Januvia (sitagliptin) is a new type of Type-2 diabetes drug that was invented by Merck. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved Januvia in 2006. When used with diet and exercise, Januvia can help people with Type-2 diabetes control their blood-sugar levels.
Januvia treats type-2 diabetes by using the body’s own hormones to stimulate extra production of insulin from the pancreas, which lowers blood-sugar. Type-2 diabetes is a chronic metabolic disorder that causes blood-sugar levels to get too high.
How does Januvia work?
Januvia inhibits an enzyme called dipeptidyl peptidase-4 (DPP-4). This enzyme destroys hormones that tell the pancreas to produce insulin. By inhibiting DPP-4, hormones (such as GLP-1) increase. This causes insulin-producing cells in the pancreas to proliferate and make more insulin, which lowers blood-sugar levels.
Januvia and Thyroid Cancer
- What studies have investigated Januvia thyroid cancer?
- Does Januvia cause thyroid cancer?
- What are the symptoms of thyroid cancer?
- What are the complications of thyroid cancer?
- How is thyroid cancer diagnosed?
- What is the treatment for thyroid cancer?
The thyroid is a gland located at the the base of the neck. Thyroid cancer begins in the thyroid gland, but it can spread to other areas of the body if left untreated. Because it usually produces a lump or “nodule” on the neck, thyroid cancer is usually diagnosed early and prognosis is generally good. However, many people with thyroid cancer must have their thyroid gland removed and take replacement hormones for the rest of their life.
Studies of Januvia and Thyroid Cancer
Some studies have suggested that DPP-4 inhibition may impair immune function, which could increase the risk of all types of cancers. However, because Januvia is a relatively new drug (only approved in 2006), there is no long-term safety data on large numbers of people.
A study published in 2011 in the journal Gastroenterology linked Januvia to several cases of thyroid cancer. Other drugs in the same class as Januvia have also been linked to thyroid cancer. Victoza (liraglutide), for example, prompted an FDA Safety Communication for Thyroid Cancer. Another drug, Byetta (exenatide), prompted a FDA Safety Update after the agency found a “potential signal of a serious risk of thyroid cancer.”
Januvia Side Effects
- Pancreatic cancer
- Thyroid cancer
- Hemorrhagic pancreatitis
- Necrotizing pancreatitis
- Lactic acidosis