Product News and Recalls

Analysis finds Byetta, Januvia linked to pancreatitis

A new analysis of insurance records published in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine adds to growing evidence of a connection between two popular diabetes drugs and a potentially deadly inflammation of the pancreas.

According to a report on the study in Bloomberg, patients hospitalized with pancreatitis — linked to cancer and kidney failure — were twice as likely to be taking Merck’s Januvia or Bristol-Myers’s Byetta than a control group of diabetics without the condition.

Both Byetta and Januvia raise levels of GLP-1, a hormone that stimulates insulin production from the pancreas. The report notes that doctors have been concerned for years that the drugs may damage the pancreas.

In 2007, U.S. Food and Drug Administration said it received a high number of reports of pancreatitis among patients who took Byetta. And in 2009, the FDA issued a similar alert for Januvia in 2009. Studies have also linked Byetta to thyroid cancer.

Bloomberg says the recent study analyzed data from 2005 to 2008.

The story says that both drugs have been big money-makers for the respective companies. Januvia is Merck’s top-selling drug, with a reported $4 billion in sales last year. And Byetta generated a total of $307 million in sales.

Bloomberg quotes Sonal Singh, the study’s author and an assistant professor of medicine at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, as saying: “This is the first real study to give an estimate of what the risk is, until now we just had a few case reports. These drugs are effective in lower glucose, but we should also consider the risk of pancreatitis and balance the risk versus the benefit.”

You should consult with a doctor if you have any ongoing symptoms or health concerns, and before making any changes in medication. You should also consult with a Lopez McHugh attorney if you or a loved one was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer after taking Januvia or Byetta.

See the story here: