Byetta (exenatide) users who experience severe, persistent upper-abdominal pain should undergo tests for pancreatitis, a life-threatening disease caused by inflammation of the pancreas. If you were diagnosed with pancreatitis after using Byetta, you are not alone — dozens of people have recently had this diagnosis, and many have undergone extensive medical tests and treatment.
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Byetta and Pancreatitis
Pancreatitis occurs when the pancreas (a digestive gland behind the stomach that produces digestive enzymes and metabolic hormones like insulin) becomes suddenly inflamed. Byetta (exenatide), a diabetes medication that causes the pancreas to secrete extra insulin, is associated with dozens of cases of pancreatitis.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recommends that doctors and patients should be vigilant for symptoms of pancreatitis. The “hallmark” signs of pancreatitis are severe, persistent upper-abdominal pain, which may or may not be accompanied by nausea and vomiting.
Although most cases of pancreatitis are not life-threatening, the FDA warned in a Safety Communication in 2008:
“There are no known patient characteristics which determine when pancreatitis associated with Byetta will be complicated by the hemorrhagic or necrotizing forms of this condition.”
Tests for Pancreatitis
The following tests may be used to diagnose pancreatitis in Byetta patients:
- Blood tests, to look for elevated levels of pancreatic enzymes (amylase and lipase)
- Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), with injection of contrast dye, to look for tissue death (necrosis) in the pancreas, gallbladder, or ducts. Tissue necrosis is suspected when the dye is not absorbed by the tissue and is not viewable in the image.
- Abdominal ultrasound to look for inflammation of the pancreas. This non-invasive procedure uses sound waves to produce images.
- Endoscopic ultrasound uses a small, flexible tube (called an “endoscope”) with a TV camera into the stomach. An ultrasound probe sends images to a computer monitor.
- Abdominal CT scan, with contrast dye, can be used to create a 3D image of the pancreas.
Patients who are diagnosed with pancreatitis due to Byetta will likely receive antibiotics, intravenous fluids, and pain relieving medications. One of the most serious complications of pancreatitis is infection. If infection occurs, it is likely that surgery will be necessary to drain off fluid, remove dead (necrotic) tissue, and prevent life-threatening sepsis (blood infection).
Do I have a Byetta Lawsuit in Texas?
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