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Januvia Wrongful Death Lawsuit Alleges Drug Makers Concealed Cancer Risk

Another Januvia wrongful death lawsuit was filed in federal court in California earlier this month, alleging the makers of the popular diabetes medication failed to warn doctors and patients the drug could cause pancreatic cancer.

The plaintiff, Teresa Sharit of Gardendale, Alabama, brought the lawsuit in the United States District Court for the Southern District of California as the surviving spouse of her late husband  Charles Sharit, who died of pancreatic cancer on April 19, 2012. The lawsuit names  as defendants Januvia and Byetta drug makers Merck Sharp & Dohme Corp., Amylin Pharmaceuticals,Inc., and Eli Lilly and Company.

Diabetes drugs tied to pancreatic cancer

Mr. Sharit was prescribed the drugs Januvia and Byetta in May of 2010 to treat his type II diabetes and prevent potential complications of the disease, and he continued to use them long after he received his pancreatic cancer diagnosis in October of 2011 – through at least 2012. Neither Mr. Sharit nor his doctor was aware of the medications’ risk of causing the cancer, according to the lawsuit complaint, despite the fact that research potentially linking the drugs to pancreatic cancer was published as early as February 2010.

The following year, in 2011, further research found that the risk of pancreatitis – a risk factor for pancreatic cancer – increased 10-fold for patients using Byetta, and 6-fold for patients on Januvia. The increase in risk of actually developing pancreatic cancer was 2.7-fold greater for Januvia and 2.9-fold for Byetta. The drug manufacturers maintained that patients’ underlying condition – diabetes – caused the increased risk, not the medications, but researchers had concluded otherwise. However, publishers of the research later withdrew the study from its journal after the drug companies voiced complaints.

Allegations in Januvia and Byetta lawsuits

Mrs. Sharti’s lawsuit alleges that the medications are too dangerous and defective as formulated, and that the design flaw causes pancreatic cancer. She also claims that the drug-makers concealed their knowledge that Byetta and Januvia side effects can cause life-threatening pancreatic cancer from patients – including Mr. Sharit- as well as the general public, and the medical community and engaged in misleading marketing.

The lawsuit also alleges that the drugs’ benefits do not outweigh the “extreme risk” of taking the medications, especially when adequate alternatives are available. In addition, the plaintiff claims that the defendants “willfully, wantonly, and with malice withheld the knowledge of increased risk of pancreatic cancer in users of Byetta and Januvia to prevent any chances of their product’s registration being delayed or rejected by FDA.”

Januvia wrongful death lawsuit damages

Similar to other Byetta and Januvia lawsuits around the nation, this claim asks for compensation for damages incurred, including Mr. Sharit’s severe physical, economic and emotional injuries associated with his cancer diagnosis, including pain and suffering, medical bills, as well as wrongful death, burial and funeral expenses, loss of consortium, and punitive damages.

The plaintiff alleges that the drug makers are  liable under several theories, including negligence, negligent misrepresentation and fraudulent concealment, strict, or automatic, liabilities for a defective product design or formulation, a failure-to-adequately-warn defect, as well as breach of implied and express warranties, and loss of consortium based on  Mrs. Sharit’s loss of her spouse’s companionship. In addition, the plaintiff is seeking punitive damages based on the defendant’s alleged “knowing, conscious, and deliberate disregard for the rights and safety of consumers.”