Some Type 2 diabetes drugs are being associated with potential increased risks for pancreatitis and pancreatic cancer. The drugs, known as incretin mimetic drugs include drugs such as Byetta and Bydureon (exenatide); Victoza (liraglutide); Januvia, Janumet, Janumet XR, and Juvisync (sitagliptin); Onglyza and Kombiglyze XR (saxagliptin); Nesina, Kazano, and Oseni (alogliptin); and Tradjenta and Jentadueto (linagliptin).
In a just-released U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Drug Safety Communication, the agency said it is investigating reports of potential increased risks of pancreatitis and pre-pancreatic cancer findings associated with these medications. The research includes some unpublished new findings, which suggests an increased risk of pancreatitis, or inflammation of the pancreas, and pre-cancerous cellular changes—pancreatic duct metaplasia—in Type 2 diabetic patients treated with incretin mimetics.
Prior research also revealed that Januvia and Byetta have been associated with reports of increased risks for pancreatic and thyroid cancers. A new study also found that the drugs may double patients’ risks for developing pancreatitis, the first time a study put a number to the risk.
Incretin Mimetic Drugs
Incretin mimetic drugs imitate the body’s incretin hormones. These hormones are meant to stimulate insulin release following consumption of meals and are typically used in collaboration with diet and exercise to lower blood sugar in adults diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes. In 2009, the agency required a label update on these drugs warning of the risk of acute pancreatitis, a painful, potentially fatal disorder and a known risk factor for pancreatic cancer.
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.
In the United States, about 8.6 percent of the population—25 million people—were diagnosed with diabetes in 2010, based on prior Bloomberg.com data. That number is expected to rise to more than 34 million by 2020.
Pancreatitis, Pancreatic Cancer
Pancreatitis is an inflammation of the pancreas that is linked to cancer and kidney failure. Chronic pancreatitis is painful, potentially fatal, and a known risk factor for pancreatic cancer.
Other serious side effects have been linked to these Type 2 diabetes drugs including:
- Low blood sugar
- Anaphylaxis and other allergic reactions, such as hives, rash, swelling of the face, lips, tongue, and/or throat
- Diseases of the pancreas such as acute, necrotizing, or heomorrhagic pancreatitis; pancreatic cancer
- Thyroid cancer
- Persistent, severe abdominal pain, sometimes radiating to the back
Although the FDA said it has not reached any new conclusions about the safety risks associated incretin mimetics, the agency informed the public and the health care community that it intends to secure and evaluate the new research that reveals links between these Type 2 medications and increased risks for pancreatic diseases, including cancer of the pancreas.