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Study Find Januvia, Byetta Associated with Increased Risk of Pancreatitis, Pancreatic Cancer

Sep 19, 2011 | Parker Waichman LLP

Diabetes drugs that lower blood sugar by promoting the action of a gut hormone called glucagon-like peptide 1 (GLP-1) may increase the risks of both pancreatitis and pancreatic cancer, according to a new study published in the journal Gastroenterology.  The study found that Januvia and Byetta, both type 2 diabetes medications, increased the risk of pancreatitis by 6-fold.  Pancreatitis is a known risk-factor for pancreatic cancer.

According to a report from EMaxHealth, animal studies of both Byetta and Januvia have previously shown that they  can promote growth of the pancreatic ducts, and there  has been concern that such a side effect in humans could increase the risk for pancreatitis and pancreatic cancer.    Pancreatitis, which is a known risk factor for pancreatic cancer, can cause:

•    Pain in the upper abdomen that may radiate to the back or feel worse after eathing
•    Nausea and vomiting
•    Tenderness when touching the abdomen
•    Indigestion
•    Unexplained weight loss

Symptoms of pancreatic cancer include:

•    Jaundice (yellowing of the skin and whites of the eyes).
•    Pain in the upper or middle abdomen and back.
•    Unexplained weight loss.
•    Loss of appetite.
•    Fatigue.

The Gastroenterology study involved a review of adverse event reports made to the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) between 2004 and 2009.  In addition to the higher risk of pancreatitis, the study also found that in patients treated with Byetta had a 2.9-fold greater risk of pancreatic cancer  compared to other therapies. The reported event rate for pancreatic cancer was 2.7-fold greater with Januvia than other therapies.

The study also found that  Byetta was also associated with thyroid cancer risk.

According to, the study authors called for randomized, controlled clinical trials to assess whether this class type 2 diabetes drugs raise the risk of pancreatitis or cancer of the pancreas

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