Reports have indicated that several Type-2 diabetes therapy drugs increase the likelihood of pancreatic cancer 25 fold.  Of the five drugs that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration tagged, two are Januvia by Merck & Co. and Byetta by Bristol-Myers Squibb.

The drugs, Byetta and Januvia, are in a class of drugs called incretin mimetics.  How incretin mimetics work that when taken, the drugs make the pancreas increase insulin levels which helps regulate the body’s blood sugar levels.  Now, several studies have been released connecting these incretin mimetic drug to increased risk of pancreatitis and pancreatic cancer.     

Byetta is an injectable GLP-1 receptor agonist.  The Institute for Safe Medication Practices (ISMP) released a report that indicated “injectable medications were . . . 28 times likelier to be linked to pancreatitis.”  However, Merck & Co. and Bristol-Myers Squibb have both “denied an association between the drug and pancreatic cancer.”  

In the report, there were 1,723 “domestic, serious” cases recorded in a single year.  Of the total, there were 831 cases of pancreatitis and 105 cases of pancreatic cancer. Pancreatitis increases the risk of pancreatic cancer.     

Januvia is a DDP-4 inhibitor taken orally.  In independent studies, Januvia was also linked to acute pancreatitis, increasing risk of pancreatic cancer.  It wasn’t until earlier this year, when the FDA actually started investigating, that the risk factors associated with taking Byetta and Januvia came to light.  Januvia hit the market seven years ago, in 2006.  Januvia was a veritable blockbuster drug, reaching tens of billions in sales in just five years on the market.      

“With millions of people living with Type-2 diabetes across the globe, many are exposing themselves to these deadly cancers by taking these drugs,” said Christopher Paulos, attorney with Levin, Papantonio, Thomas, Mitchell, Rafferty & Proctor P.A.  “These drugs provide no additional benefit above and beyond other, better tested, well-known diabetes therapies.”

Joshua de Leon is writer and researcher with Ring of Fire.