Lawsuits Allege Link Between Pancreatic Cancer and Diabetes Drug Byetta

byetta packagingApproved in 2005, Byetta is an injectable medication used to help lower blood sugar levels of people suffering from Type 2 Diabetes. In 2007 the FDA issued a public warning that there were concerns over a possible link between pancreatitis, a condition associated with the development of pancreatic cancer, and the use of Byetta and other incretin mimetic drugs.  A 2011 study from UCLA suggested that Byetta might increase the risk  of developing pancreatic cancer and thyroid cancer. According to a report published by The Institute for Safe Medication Practices, 612 of the 1,069 cases of pancreatitis, pancreatic cancer, thyroid cancer or hypersensitivity reaction reported to the FDA in 2012 were linked to Byetta.

These concerns escalated in March of 2013 when a study suggested a connection between the use of Byetta and the development of a precancerous condition called pancreatic duct metaplasia. Although the FDA as yet to confirm that patients taking incretin mimetics such as Byetta are in fact at risk of this disease, research on this concern is ongoing.  Both the FDA and the American Diabetes Association have requested more testing of drugs like Byetta to determine additional risks. A recent report in the British Medical Journal suggests that risks associated with incretin memtics have been minimized by drug manufacturers.

Over 60 lawsuits involving the use of Byetta and other incretin mimetic drugs such as Januvia and Victoza are underway in U.S. District Court, Southern District of California. On August 26, 2013 the Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation consolidated these cases (Incretins Products Liability, Sales and Marketing Litigation, MDL 252, United States Judicial Panel on Multidistrict  Litigation). The first trial conference is scheduled for October 17, 2013.

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