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Byetta and Januvia Drug Increasing Risk of Pancreatic Cancer

Byetta and Januvia are both drugs used to treat type 2 diabetes in a different way than traditional pills or insulin. Both drugs are prescribed to patients in order to maintain proper blood sugar levels and help the body produce insulin. While both drugs were marketed as alternatives that could lower blood sugar levels as soon as the first day of treatment, recent discoveries have led researchers and doctors to believe that Byetta and Januvia significantly increase the risk of pancreatic cancer. As reported by the New York Times, since this discovery, more than 100 lawsuits have been filed against the maker of Byetta, and nearly fifty have been filed against the maker of Januvia.

Byetta was approved in 2005 for sale in the US, and Januvia was approved just one year later. While the safety information label for both drugs indicated that pancreatic problems might be a side effect, there was no indication that a disease as serious as pancreatic cancer could develop. While there was evidence found in studies performed on rats that these drugs might cause pancreatic problems prior to their approval for the US market, no other precautions were taken to warn patients. Researchers for the Food and Drug Administration have begun to look into Byetta and Januvia. While the FDA has yet to make any new conclusions about the safety of the drugs, they are currently evaluating a number of unpublished new findings that suggest that the risk of pancreatic cancer in patients taking Byetta and Januvia is much higher than the drug companies often let on. In fact, studies have found patients taking the drugs are six times more likely to suffer pancreatic problems and three times more likely to develop pancreatic cancer. As our attorneys know, the ingredients in Byetta and Januvia work by increasing a hormone called glucagnolike petide-1 (GLP-1). While the production of this hormone is simply a side effect of the drugs, its overall effect is to speed up pre cancerous conditions in the pancreas.

The pancreas is an organ in the abdomen that is located behind the lower part of the stomach. The pancreas is essential to bodily function in that is secretes enzyme that aid digestions and hormones that help regulate insulin and glucose. Pancreatic cancer beings in the tissues of the pancreas and is often left undiagnosed until the later stages. Symptoms of pancreatic cancer, if they appear at all in the early stages, often include abdominal pain, yellowing of the skin, loss of appetite, weight loss, depression, and blood clots. As the cancer gets worse, problems such as jaundice, severe pain, bowel obstruction, and significant weight loss can result. Pancreatic cancer has four stages, stage one being the least severe. Stage one occurs when the cancer is only in the pancreas and stage two occurs when the cancer has spread to organs near the area. Stage three occurs when the cancer has progressed to the blood vessels around the pancreas as well as the lymph nodes. Stage four, the worst of the stages, occurs when the cancer has spread to the liver, lungs, and the lining around the abdomen.

The treatment for pancreatic cancer depends heavily on the diagnosis as well as the stage that the cancer has reached. Surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy, and targeted therapy are all potential treatments. If the cancer has spread, often times the only option is to try and relieve the symptoms and make the patient as comfortable as possible through the weight loss and pain that will occur. The one-year survival rate for all pancreatic cancer is only 20%, and the five-year rate is a mere 4%. These rates are low not only because of the severity of pancreatic cancer, but also because in 80% of patients by the time the cancer is caught it has already spread to the surrounding organs.

As our attorneys unfortunately understand, the effects of pancreatic cancer are often fatal, causing pain for not only the patient, but for countless family members and friends as well. At Altman & Altman, LLP, our dedicated MA Drug Injury Attorneys have been representing clients and their families for over 40 years. Our attorneys are available to speak with you around the clock, seven days a week. Please contact us to schedule a free-of-charge initial consultation with one of our experienced Greater Boston Byetta Injury Attorneys.

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