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Lack of Warnings for Diabetes Drugs and Pancreatic Cancer

June 12, 2013 — In an editorial published by the British Medical Journal, experts are raising concerns that the public and doctors are not being adequately warned about the link between diabetes drugs and pancreatic cancer.

In the last few years, millions of people have started using diabetes drugs in the incretin mimetic class (Januvia, Byetta, Victoza, etc.). Because this class of drugs is so new, long-term side effects like pancreatic cancer are still under investigation. However, early studies have found that the drugs can increase proliferation of pre-cancerous cells — a major risk-factor for pancreatic cancer.

The authors presented evidence from a number of concerning studies. One of the first studies, which was published in February, found that hospitalization for acute pancreatitis was twice as likely to occur in patients taking Januvia (sitagliptin) or Byetta (exenatide) instead of other anti-diabetes drugs.

Not everyone is raising alarm — notably, drug-makers and government regulatory agencies. Merck, Bristol-Myers Squibb, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and the European Medicines Agency (EMA) all continue to deny a causal link between incretin mimetic diabetes drugs and pancreatic cancer.

Indeed, the evidence is still tentative. Pancreatic cancer is a rare disease and these drugs are relatively new. However, there may still be a very serious risk.

The authors cited a concerning rodent study from 2007, which found that diabetic rodents treated with Januvia (sitagliptin) developed enlarged pancreases. The study also found evidence of pre-cancerous cellular changes in 3 out of 16 animals. Other studies involving mice who were given Byetta also found evidence of enlarged pancreases.

Researchers have also investigated adverse events submitted to the FDA. In 2012, Gastroenterology published a study of reports between 2004 and 2009. They linked Byetta to a 6-fold increased rate of pancreatitis reports, a 3-fold increase in pancreatic cancer reports, and a 4-fold increase in thyroid cancer reports. Drug-makers fought to have the study withdrawn from publication, calling the methodology flawed. However, other independent research groups have also found similar results.

Most recently, the journal Diabetes published research analyzing organ donor pancreases. Pancreases of diabetics who took incretin mimetic drugs were 40% larger than pancreases of diabetics on other drugs. Furthermore, several patients on the incretin mimetics had pre-cancerous growths called adenomas and one had a small tumor that was “not appreciated in life.” None of the pancreases from patients on other drugs had cancerous cells.

Do I have a Diabetes Drug Pancreatic Cancer Lawsuit?

The Schmidt Firm, PLLC is currently accepting pancreatic cancer induced injury cases in all 50 states. If you or somebody you know has been injured by pancreatic cancer after taking a diabetes drug (Januvia, Byetta, Victoza, etc.), you should contact our lawyers immediately for a free case consultation. Please use the form below to contact our Defective Drug Litigation Group or call toll free 24 hours a day at (866) 920-0753.

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