The Food and Drug Administration, FDA, are looking into links between various diabetes prescription and pancreatic cancer. The diabetes drugs involved are â€˜Januviaâ€™ (made by Merck & Co.), â€˜Byettaâ€™ (made by Bristol-Myers Squibb Co.)Â and â€˜Victosaâ€™ (made by Novo Nordisk). The FDA are looking into evidence from a group of academic researchers that is currently not in the public domain.
What Are Incretin Mimetics?
All of these drugs are known as â€˜incretin mimeticsâ€™. Incretin is a hormone normally produced in the small intestine. When introduced to the blood they work on organs such as the pancreas to stimulate the production of insulin when blood sugar levels rise. Bringing the levels down post ingestion of food. Incretin also works by restricting the liverâ€™s production of glucagon. This is another hormone that tells the liver to give up its reserves of glucose. It is thought that suppressing glucagon is half of the efficacious impact of incretin.
However, now a link has been made between cell changes in advance of cancer and the type 2 diabetes drug treatments. Early evidence seems to point to this class of drugs being connected to an increased danger of swelling of the pancreas because of cancer and even in some reported cases of acute kidney malfunction. As far back as â€˜07 the FDA has been collating numerous reports of pancreatitis in diabetes patients on Byetta. Then came a warning for patients on Januvia in â€˜09. In February there was a report in a medical journal of a review of insurance claims, indicating a doubling of the risk of contracting pancreatitis when on these drug programs.
Other Incretin Mimetics
Other prescription name treatments in this group are â€˜Exenatideâ€™, â€˜Liraglutideâ€™, â€˜Sitagliptinâ€™, â€˜Saxagliptinâ€™, â€˜Alogliptinâ€™ and â€˜Linagliptinâ€™. They are all synthetic incretin hormones that should occur naturally as part of insulin production, post-eating. If any diabetes sufferers on these medications are concerned they should consult their doctors. As yet the FDA have not finalized their conclusions as to the exact risks levels because of the drugâ€™s use. The current advice is to continue with their drug regimen for now.
The pharmaceutical giant, Merck, the number 2 drug manufacturer in America, are sure of the safety of Sitagliptin, the active ingredient in the companyâ€™s product class. A spokeswoman for Merck emailed, that a third-party based in New Jersey have re-evaluated all of the safety data gathered by them on this ingredient and â€œfind no compelling evidence establishing a causal relationship between the use of sitagliptin and pancreatitis or pancreatic cancerâ€. But they will continue to monitor the situation alongside the FDA.
[box type=”important”]The sheer quantity of money and vested interest in the continued use of incretin mimetics is astounding. Nearly 10% of Merckâ€™s corporate revenue comes from Januvia. Last year it sold four billion dollarsâ€™ worth. Byetta became the property of Bristol Myers part way through last year, but still earned $148 million. For Eli Lilley & Co it made $159 million last year. While Victoza had sales revenues for Novo Nordisk of $1.6 billion.[/box]