ADA Asks for Data on Diabetes Drugs and Pancreatic Cancer

June 17, 2013 — The American Diabetes Association (ADA) is asking all pharmaceutical companies who manufacture a diabetes drug in the incretin mimetic class (such as Januvia, Byetta, Victoza, and more) to provide patient-level data so that independent researchers can investigate the risk of pancreatic cancer. In the last couple years, several studies have linked diabetes drugs and pancreatic cancer. The FDA is considering requiring drug-makers to conduct additional studies.

According to Dr. Robert Ratner, Chief Scientific & Medical Officer of the ADA:

“People who are taking these medications, or who may consider taking them, should have the benefit of all that is currently known about their risks and advantages in order to make the best possible decisions about their treatment and care in consultation with their health care providers.”

The incretin mimetics are a new class of diabetes drug that work by influencing the hormone GLP-1 and the enzyme DPP-4, which treat diabetes by improving blood-sugar control and promoting weight-loss. Because the class of drugs is less than a decade old, there is no long-term safety data.

Even so, the drugs have skyrocketed in popularity. Last year, Novo Nordisk’s Victoza (liraglutide) generated $1.6 billion; Merck’s Januvia (sitagliptin) generated $4.1 billion, and Bristol-Myer’s Byetta (exenatide) generated $149 million.

As the popularity of the drugs continues to increase, many experts are asking about the potential risks. In March, the journal Diabetes published a study that showed a 40% increase in cell changes that could lead to cancer for patients taking an incretin mimetic.

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