Manufacturer: Amylin Pharmaceuticals for Byetta; Merck for Januvia
Uses: Both drugs are used to treat Type 2 diabetes. They help control blood sugar levels by encouraging production of a hormone called glucagon-like peptide 1 (GLP-1).
Problems: A link to pancreatitis and pancreatic cancer for both drugs, and thyroid cancer for Byetta.
A study by researchers at the University of California, Los Angeles, looked at information in the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s database on adverse events, reported by doctors whose patients used the drugs. The data was from 2004-2009.
Researchers found a sixfold increase of reported cases of pancreatitis, or inflammation of the pancreas, linked to patients taking Januvia or Byetta as compared to those taking other treatments.
They also reported a 2.9-fold increase in reported cases of pancreatic cancer among patients taking Byetta, and a 2.7-fold increase among Januvia users, compared to other treatments. In addition, researchers found an increase in reported cases of thyroid cancer among Byetta users.
Research previously published in 2009 found an increase in pancreatitis in rats whose GLP-1 levels were raised.
Study Links Diabetes Drugs to Pancreatitis, Cancer
According to a story in USA Today, a medical expert says researchers should take a closer look at the Type 2 diabetes medications Byetta and Januvia, after a study linked them to pancreatitis and pancreatic cancer.
Dr. Ronald Goldberg, professor of medicine, biochemistry and molecular biology at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, is quoted as saying: “I don’t think the study is definitive, but it raises a flag and is clearly something we need to pay attention to going forward.”
Goldberg was referring to a study by researchers at the Larry L. Hillblom Islet Research Center at the University of California, Los Angeles.
After analyzing information from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s database on adverse events, they discovered a sixfold increase of reported cases of pancreatitis linked to patients taking Januvia or Byetta, compared to other medications.
Pancreatitis, an inflammation of the pancreas, frequently leads to pancreatic cancer. The researchers found a 2.9-fold increase in reported cases of pancreatic cancer among those taking Byetta and a 2.7-fold increase of reported pancreatic cancers among Januvia users.
An increase in reported cases of thyroid cancer was also linked to Byetta.