Januvia, Byetta Linked to Adverse Health Events

Januvia (sitagliptin) and Byetta (exenatide), prescribed for the treatment of Type 2 diabetes, have been associated with reports of increased risks for pancreatic and thyroid cancers.

Researchers at the University of California, Los Angeles looked at the both Januvia and Byetta in comparison to other therapies and all of the drugs’ risks for pancreatic and thyroid cancers and pancreatitis.

The study, published in the journal, Gastroenterology and conducted by researchers at the University of California, revealed that Januvia and Byetta patients experienced a nearly three-fold risk of developing pancreatic cancer. Evidence also suggests an increased incidence of thyroid cancer among patients taking Byetta.

Specifically, the research indicates that Januvia users are 2.7 times and Byetta users are 2.9 times likelier to develop pancreatic cancer and patients taking either Byetta or Januvia were six times likelier to develop pancreatitis and that patients taking Byetta are at increased risks for developing thyroid cancer.

Januvia is manufactured by Merck and Amylin Pharmaceuticals makes Byetta.

Both drugs are glucagon-like peptide-1 based therapies that are in the class dipeptidyl peptidase-4 (DPP-4) inhibitors. The drugs increase certain natural substances that lower raised blood sugar levels. Diabetics typically have abnormally low amount insulin levels or their bodies have difficulties utilizing insulin efficiently.

Other serious side effects have been linked to these Type 2 diabetes drugs and, according to Foodconsumer.org, some of these serious side effects include low blood sugar; anaphylaxis and other allergic reactions including hives, rash, swelling of face, lips, tongue, and/or throat; acute pancreatitis, and death.

Approved in 2006 by the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA), Januvia continues to be associated with risks for pancreatic side effects, pancreatitis, and pancreatic cancer. In 2009, the agency required a label update warning of the risk of acute pancreatitis based on 88 reports of acute pancreatitis in patients who took Januvia between October 2006 and February 2009. Chronic pancreatitis is painful, potentially fatal, and a known risk factor for pancreatic cancer.

Testing for the safety of Januvia has not looked at other effects drugs in the DPP-4 inhibitors class, specifically, the drugs’ role in inhibiting one of the body’s natural cancer-suppressing mechanisms. For example, Foodconsumer.org pointed out that diabetes patients could be at risk for years before the full effects and risks of taking Januvia and other DPP-4 drugs are known.

Meanwhile, Amylin Pharmaceuticals came under fire for allegedly hiding a study that revealed serious heart risks associated with Byetta. FDA claimed Amylin concealed the Byetta heart study from the agency, and then tried to keep the FDA from getting its hands on the key data when the agency learned of its existence.

Byetta, administered via a twice-daily injection, was first approved in 2005 to be used in conjunction with other diabetes treatments and was later approved as a stand-alone therapy for type 2 diabetes.

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