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Januvia lawsuits hit U.S. District Court, many more likely to follow

There are now more than 150 lawsuits involving Januvia and other kinds of Type 2 diabetes drugs, according to recent court filings. Federal proceedings have begun in a United States District Court in the Southern District of California. Every single claim filed alleges that physicians and their patients were not provided with enough knowledge about the product in regards to pancreas-related health problems, pancreatic cancer, and thyroid cancer.

Januvia and similar incretin mimetic drugs like Janumet, Byetta, and Victoza work by copying the action of incretion-stimulating hormones in a person's digestive tract to rouse production of more insulin by the pancreas. In 2009, an FDA caution linking Januvia and pancreatitis was added to Januvia's label after federal officials became aware of nearly 90 occurrences of Januvia patients developing pancreatitis. 

Since then, respective research studies have concluded that diabetes drugs like Januvia may have harmful effects on the pancreas. One such study, published in Gastroenterology in 2011, found that using Januvia increased the risk of pancreatitis and, subsequently, pancreatic cancer. In addition, the Gastroenterology study showed two cases of thyroid cancer that were reported in the people who were prescribed Januvia.

Then, in March of 2013, the FDA decided to investigate Januvia and other similar drugs when the results from a newer, unpublished study linked the medications to pre-cancerous deviations in pancreas cells. While the FDA has not yet been able to confirm a 100% link between the use of Januvia and pancreatic cancer, it has said the review remains constant so long as pancreas-related information is being collected.

One month after the FDA announced its review, in April 2013, the ISMP (Institute for Safe Medicine Practices) published an analysis of the FDA's timeline of the adverse effects of Januvia and similar drugs and exposed 177 cases of pancreatitis in patients who took Januvia. Eighteen of the cases involved pancreatic cancer, and one case was linked to thyroid cancer.

Source: Everyday Health, "Meet the New Generation of Type 2 Diabetes Drugs" 20 November 2013

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