June 17, 2016 — Over twice as many diabetes patients on Victoza developed pancreatic cancer compared to a placebo, according to data from a major clinical trial investigating cardiovascular outcomes.
The LEADER study found that Victoza reduced the risk of heart attack, stroke, and death from cardiovascular events by 13%.
However, 15 patients on Victoza developed pancreatic cancer, compared to 5 in the placebo group, out of roughly 4,670 patients in each group.
Given that GLP-1 receptor agonists have previously been linked to pancreatitis, there was concern that Victoza might increase the risk of pancreatic cancer. However, pancreatitis was actually less common in patients on Victoza.
The risk of cancer appeared low, but patients were followed for only 3.5 to 5 years, so the data is restricted to that time period. Pancreatic cancer can take nearly 20 years to become lethal and it has a very slow progression in the early stages. By the time patients are sick enough to seek medical attention, it is usually too late to cure.
The study also found higher rates of gallstones, with the disease occurring in 145 patients (3.1%) on Victoza vs. 90 (1.9%) on a placebo. This increased risk has been confirmed in other studies.
The LEADER study was designed to meet requirements set by the FDA in 2008, after the diabetes drug Avandia was linked to a significant increased risk of heart attack. The study involved 9,340 patients with type-2 diabetes who were over 50 years old and had at least one co-existing cardiovascular condition.
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