Januvia May Increased Cancer Risks. Our firm is investigating potential lawsuits on behalf of patients who suffered from pancreatitis, pancreatic cancer or thyroid cancer related to the use of glucagon-like peptide-1-based therapies such as Januvia (sitagliptin). Januvia is a prescription medicine used along with diet and exercise to lower blood sugar in adults with Type 2 diabetes, which occurs when there is not enough insulin to break down sugar in the body. Januvia came to the market in 2006 and is manufactured by Merck & Co., Inc.
Glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1) is a gut hormone that helps secrete insulin. Januvia, is a dipeptidyl peptidase-4 (DPP-4) inhibitor; it helps stop the activity of DPP-4,the substance that breaks down GLP-1. Research has linked this glucagon-like peptide -1-based therapies to an increased risk of pancreatitis, and pancreatic cancer.
In 2011, Gastroenterology journal published a study definitively linking pancreatitis and pancreatic cancer -1 based therapies. The study, conducted by researchers at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) found a higher incidence of pancreatitis and pancreatic cancer associated with Januvia compared with other therapies.
Januvia Associated with Pancreatitis
Pancreatitis is inflammation of the pancreas, the organ responsible for secreting digestive enzymes. It is also involved in regulating blood sugar because it releases the hormones insulin and glucagon. Pancreatitis occurs when the digestive enzymes become active while still inside the pancreas (instead of the small intestine). This condition, which can occur acutely or develop as chronic condition, can cause damage to the pancreas. According to WebMD, signs of acute pancreatitis include:
- Upper abdominal pain that may radiate to the back
- Swollen and tender abdomen
- Increased heart rate
Chronic pancreatitis causes many of the same symptoms, but may also lead to weight loss. According to the Gastroenterology study, pancreatitis was six times more common among patients who took Januvia compared to those who took an alternative type 2 diabetes therapy.
Januvia and Pancreatic Cancer
Pancreatic cancer, where cancer develops in the tissues of the pancreas, is a usually rapidly spreading cancer that is rarely detected in the early stages. Unfortunately, the prognosis for this condition is often poor. According to MayoClinic, pancreatitis and diabetes are both risk factors for developing pancreatic cancer. Signs of pancreatic cancer often to do not appear until the advanced stages, they include:
- Upper abdominal pain, possibly radiates to the back
- Loss of appetite, weight loss
- Blood clots
According to the clinical researchers at UCLA, pancreatic cancer was more commonly reported among patients taking Januvia. Compared to other type 2 diabetes drugs, patients taking Januvia had a 2.7-fold increased rate of pancreatic cancer.
Januvia and Thyroid Cancer
The thyroid gland secretes hormones responsible for regulating heart rate, blood pressure, body temperature and weight. According to the National Cancer Institute, there were 496,901 people living in the United States with a history of thyroid cancer on January 1, 2009; this includes 109,920 men and 387,981 women. Although most cases of thyroid cancer can be cured with proper treatment, it has a tendency to come back, even if the thyroid has been removed. Signs of thyroid cancer include:
- A lump on the skin of your neck
- Changes in voice, voice becomes more hoarse
- Difficulty swallowing
- Neck and throat pain
- Swollen lymph nodes
Previous research has found that diabetes medications affecting glucagon-like-peptide-1 (GLP-1) increases the proliferation of precancerous thyroid cells in rats.