Type 2 Diabetes Drugs Linked to Cancer

Byetta and Januvia may increase risks of pancreatitis and pancreatic cancer

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) They are two of the newer drugs used to treat Type 2 diabetes. They are effective in lowering blood sugar. New findings, though, cast doubt on the safety of these medications.

A review of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration's (FDA) data base for adverse events has revealed Byetta (exenatide) and Januvia (sitagliptin) significantly increase the risks of pancreatitis and pancreatic cancer in patients, as compared to other diabetes drugs.

"Talk to you doctor if you're taking Byetta or Januvia."

Researchers from the Larry L. Hillblom Islet Research Center at the University of California - Los Angeles reviewed the FDA's adverse reporting data base for the period between 2004 and 2009.

They discovered a six-fold increase in risks of pancreatitis, compared to four other diabetes drugs and a nearly three-fold increase in the risk of pancreatic cancer. Byetta was also associated with an increased risk of thyroid cancer.

The analysis was conducted following animal studies that found the drugs encourage the growth of a tube in the pancreas that moves juices from that gland to the gut, says study co-author, Dr. Peter Butler, director of the Hillblom Center.

This action increases the risk of both pancreatitis and pancreatic cancer, Butler explains.

Byetta and Januvia increase the activity of a hormone called glucagon-like peptide 1 (GLP-1), which is effective in lowering blood sugar levels in patients with Type 2 diabetes.

Study authors caution that the FDA data base has a number of limitations and stress the need for more study to confirm these findings.

The study is published in the journal Gastroenterology.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
September 18, 2011
Last Updated:
September 19, 2011