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Concerns are growing over the possible relationship between the Type II Diabetes drug Byetta and pancreatic cancer.

Byetta (exenatide synthetic) is a twice daily injection prescribed to people with Type II Diabetes to encourage insulin production. Byetta is manufactured by Amylin Pharmaceuticals, Inc. and was until very recently co-promoted by Eli Lilly, & Co. Byetta was approved for use on April 8, 2005. In 2010 Byetta netted Amylin and it partners over $550 million in sales.

For several years there has been concern that Byetta can cause acute and chronic pancreatitis. By 2008, the FDA received more than 30 reports of acute pancreatitis in Byetta users. Now, new research has been published questioning whether long term Byetta use increases the risk of pancreatic cancer.

In 2011, researchers at UCLA published a study showing that Byetta users are three times more likely to develop pancreatic cancer than those not taking the drug. Researchers based their conclusions on an evaluation of the FDA Adverse Event Database for the years 2004-2009. One of the study’s authors, Dr. Peter Butler cautioned that further research is necessary.

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