Study prompts concerns about pancreatic side effects of diabetes drugs

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by Heygood Orr and Pearson

A recent study conducted by an endocrinologist at the University of California at Los Angeles has threatened the future of a class of diabetes drugs that may be linked to an increased risk of pancreatic disorders. Dr. Peter Butler’s study on the side effects of Januvia, Janumet, Byetta, and similar type 2 diabetes drugs provided evidence of a link between these medications and an increased risk of pancreatic problems.

Butler’s study examined a class of diabetes drugs known as incretin mimetics, which includes Bydureon, Onglyza, Victoza, Tradjenta, Nesina, Byetta, Januvia and Janumet. Although researchers have known about a link between these medications and pancreatitis since the first, Byetta, was approved in 2005, Butler uncovered evidence that the drugs may increase a patient’s risk of developing pancreatic cancer, a nearly untreatable disease which is often fatal within one year.

Butler’s study has prompted the Food and Drug Administration and the European Medicines Agency to launch their own studies into the pancreatic side effects of Januvia, Janumet, Byetta, and other drugs in their class. Experts say that these studies may lead to the issue of new warnings for the diabetes drugs or to their recall from the market.

Over 100 Byetta lawsuits involving 575 patients have already been filed in the US, many involving patients who were diagnosed with pancreatitis after taking the drug. At least 43 lawsuits have also been filed by patients who allege that they developed pancreatic cancer after taking Januvia.