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Do Popular Diabetes Drugs Contribute to Pancreatic Cancer Development?

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Today an independent body released the results of its research indicating that an entire class of type-2 diabetes drugs known as incretin mimetics may carry up to 25 times the risk of developing pancreatic cancer for patients taking these drugs. These drugs are known commercially as Januvia, Byetta, Victoza, Onglyza, and Tradjenta.

The Institute for Safe Medication Practices "ISMP" analyzed data from the FDA's Adverse Event Reports between July 1, 2011 and June 30, 2012 from 1,723 patients taking these drugs. The ISMP concluded that the increased risk of developing pancreatic cancer for patients taking these drugs could be as much as 25% higher than those who were taking other medications to control their type-2 diabetes. . . .

Tom Moore, a senior scientist for drug safety and policy at the ISMP said, “I think the whole class is in question.” Moore further stated that additional analysis is required, but “if the results are confirmed in a broader patient population, it raises questions about the entire class of drugs.”

This class of drugs is collectively referred to as incretin mimetics. Some work by mimicking a hormone called GLP-1 to stimulate natural insulin production. Other drugs in this class are known as DDP-4 inhibitors and they work by inhibiting glucagon release thereby stimulating insulin secretion. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the European Medicines Agency (EMA) are continuing to investigate the connection between this class of drugs and pancreatic cancer.

Although this data has some inherent limitations because it is based on adverse event reporting, it is a significant signal that more study and investigation should be undertaken, especially considering the reports from different, independent, investigators published in February.

We call on the manufacturers to focus on patient safety and truly and transparently study the safety of their drugs.