A large number of lawsuits have been brought against a handful of pharmaceutical companies who product drugs to combat Type 2 diabetes.

pancreatic cancerThese drugs – Januvia, Janumet, Byetta and Victoza – have been prescribed and used by millions of patients since being approved by the FDA. However, multiple studies have found a possible link between these drugs and pancreatic cancer.

All four of these medications are considered incretin mimetics and are used to treat Type 2 diabetes. They work by slowing the metabolism of incretins, a naturally occurring hormone that diabetes patients do not produce enough of.

By slowing the metabolism down, it gives the hormone more time to work in the bloodstream at reducing sugar levels. The specific incretin is Glucagon-Like Peptide-1, or GLP-1.

It is believed now that the increased activity by GLP-1 may also increase the risk of developing pancreatic cancer.

Complications

Januvia was the first to be approved by the FDA in 2005 with the other medications following in 2006, 2007 and 2010. Since granting the approval, the FDA has issued warnings that indicate there is a link between these medications and serious complications, such as pancreatitis.

Despite these warnings, the products have remained on the market and patients feel that the pharmaceutical companies behind them have not done enough to warn consumers about the potential risks.

These medications have been shown to increase the likelihood of acute pancreatitis, which includes hemorrhagic pancreatitis and necrotizing pancreatitis, both of which could be fatal.

Other signs and symptoms of these conditions include:

  • Inflammation of the pancreas
  • Severe abdominal pain
  • Severe back pain
  • Elevated respiratory rate
  • Increased heart rate
  • Abnormal blood pressure
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting

The use of these drugs have also been associated with an increased risk of developing pancreatic cancer. This dangerous side effect is particularly troubling for patients since pancreatic cancer is considered one of the most lethal cancers due to the fact that it is not often discovered until an advanced stage.

Less than 20% of patients are diagnosed before the cancer spreads beyond the pancreas. This is mainly because there are very vague, if any, symptoms experienced in the early stages.

Once symptoms do start the appear, individuals may experience the following:

  • Fatigue or weakness
  • Unintentional weight loss
  • Jaundice due to the flow of bile being cut off
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Worsening of type-2 diabetes
  • Diarrhea
  • Indigestion
  • Malnutrition
  • Abdominal pain

For Byetta users, there is a link between the drug and kidney dysfunction, thyroid cancer, heart congestion and heart failure.

Diabetes Drug Class Action Lawsuit

There have been several lawsuits filed against the manufacturers – Merck, Amylin, Bristol-Myers Squibb, Eli Lilly and Novo Nordisk – by patients who have experienced pancreatic cancer as a side effect of these drugs. Due to the number of lawsuits that have been filed, some federal courts have grouped them together to streamline the legal process.

In August of 2013, federal cases involving all four of these diabetes drugs were grouped together for discovery in the Southern District of California. The lawsuits are not being considered a class action suit however, and are simply being grouped for discovery to prevent duplicated efforts. The process of discovery involves taking depositions and reviewing pertinent documentation.

The federal judicial panel that order the cases be grouped together noted they did not like to do this when cases involved competitors. However, due to the fact that all four drugs were facing similar allegations and that most cases would revolve around the same witnesses, it made sense to do this.

The plaintiffs who have brought the cases to court feel stronger that these manufacturers knew there was a risk of pancreatic cancer and not only failed to warn doctors and patients but actively tried to conceal this knowledge. Once the link was published, the manufacturers continued to promote the drug as a safe and effective treatment options.

People who are suing are claiming that the manufacturers are liable for damages due to the following reasons:

  • Failed to exercise reasonable care
  • Created unreasonable risks of personal injury to others
  • The drugs are defective, causing dangerous and unreasonable side effects
  • Failed to warn doctors and consumers about the potential side effects
  • Inadequately labeled the drugs
  • Purposefully hid the risks associated with the drugs
  • Failed to properly test and monitor side effects

Update

As of January 2016, there are over 750 individual lawsuits being brought against manufacturers of incretin mimetic drugs due to pancreatic side effects.  The pharmaceutical companies have not settled with any of the plaintiffs and are vehemently denying that their drugs are responsible for the onset of pancreatic cancer.

 

The information provided here is meant to be informative and does not constitute legal or medical advice in any way.  If you have any concerning symptoms or medical questions, you should speak with a physician for proper diagnosis and treatment recommendations.  For those with questions regarding litigation, only a licensed attorney can provide legal advice.