Study warns of potential pancreatic cancer link for diabetes drugs

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by Heygood Orr and Pearson

A new study published in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine has revealed that a leading class of diabetes drugs may increase the risk of pancreatic cancer in patients. These drugs—known as incretin mimetics—include the type 2 diabetes medications Byetta, Januvia, Janumet, Bydureon, and Victoza.

Researchers in the study analyzed tissue samples from a number of patients who had taken incretin mimetics to treat their diabetes symptoms. An analysis of these samples uncovered abnormal cells known as pancreatic duct metaplasia, which can be precursors to cancer.

Other studies have also warned about a potential risk of pancreatic side effects for patients who take diabetes drugs such as Byetta, Januvia, and Janumet. The FDA issued a warning in 2007 about a potential link between incretin mimetics diabetes drugs and acute pancreatitis. According to one study, patients taking these drugs may be up to six times more likely to develop potentially fatal pancreatitis.

The complete list of diabetes drugs covered by the FDA’s pancreatic cancer warning includes:

  • exenatide (Byetta, Bydureon)
  • liraglutide (Victoza)
  • sitagliptin (Januvia, Janumet, Janumet XR, Juvisync)
  • saxagliptin (Onglyza, Kombiglyze XR)
  • alogliptin (Nesina, Kazano, Oseni)
  • linagliptin (Tradjenta, Jentadueto)