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Study Confirms Link Between Incretin Mimetics and Pancreatitis

The findings of a recent study on incretin mimetics should strengthen allegations raised in Byetta and Januvia lawsuits that claim the diabetes drugs caused acute pancreatitis and cancer of the pancreas. Italian researchers published their results in the medical journal Expert Opinion on Drug Safety on November 13.  Scientists examined side effects of medications including Janumet, Januvia, Byetta and Victoza –all incretin mimetics – and discovered an alarming incidence of pancreatic damage in patients who took the medications.

Researchers confirmed the mounting concern over Januvia pancreatic cancer and other dangerous complications associated with this new class of drugs.

“Our data from the daily clinical practice add up and confirm the information available on the association between incretin-mimetics and pancreatic damage and suggest caution in the prescribing of these new drugs and a close monitoring of exposed patients,” the researchers stated.

Januvia pancreatic cancer link explored

The Italian research team analyzed adverse event reports among patients who were exposed to incretin mimetics, including Januvia and Byetta, and found that among the 1,169 reports, 90 involved serious cases of elevated pancreatic enzymes and pancreatitis – a frequent precursor to pancreatic cancer. This isn’t the first study to explore incretin mimetic risks and their link to pancreatic cancer. Prior research conducted at Johns Hopkins in Baltimore revealed that Januvia and Byetta side effects include a 50 percent increased risk of being hospitalized for pancreatitis.

Based on this and other research on potential dangers of incretin mimetics, the FDA launched an investigation into the safety of the drugs, but has yet to determine a definitive correlation between Januvia and pancreatic cancer.

Januvia and Byetta side effects topic of increasing litigation

California district court is the site of coordinated litigation for all federal lawsuits alleging pancreatic cancer from incretin mimetics. Court dockets show that more than 150 plaintiffs have brought product liability lawsuits against the manufacturers of Byetta, Januvia and Victoza, arguing the companies manufactured a defective drug and failed to warn consumers about latent risks.

U.S. District Judge Anthony J. Battaglia is presiding over the Incretin Mimetics multidistrict litigation, which was established to minimize judicial burdens and allow all parties to share in pretrial proceedings.  According to the transfer order issued by the U.S. Judicial Panel on multidistrict litigation (JPML), lawsuits centralized in MDL No. 2452 include plaintiffs that allege incretin mimetics caused them or a decedent to develop cancer of the pancreas – one of the deadliest forms of the disease.

Under normal circumstances, MDL doesn’t consolidate mass lawsuits against various defendants, but the JPML found that multiple plaintiffs claimed similar injuries, regardless if they took Janumet, Byetta, Januvia or Victoza, suggesting that discovery specific to these claims may entail many of the same documents and expert witnesses.

The Southern District of California was chosen as the site of the MDL as the bulk of pending actions had already been filed in this court.

How incretin mimetics work to manage Type 2 diabetes

Incretin mimetics act like insulin by lowering blood glucose levels in the body after meals.  They encourage the pancreas to produce insulin while blood sugar levels are rising and stop the organ from releasing excess glucagon – a hormone that triggers the liver to release stored sugars into the blood.

The drugs are known as glucagon-like peptide 1 (GLP-1) receptor agonist, or GLP-1 agonist. Often recommended when other oral medications fail to stabilize blood sugars, incretin mimetics have risen in popularity, but recent research on pancreatic cancer risks may dampen enthusiasm for this novel class of drugs.