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Some Diabetes Drugs Can Lead to Cancerous Pancreatic Cellular Generation

Filed March 25th, 2013 edlieber1

Diabetes drugs, including Merck & Co.’s Januvia, can lead to pancreatic cell growth that may turn cancerous, a new study found.

The study was conducted by Alexandra Butler and Peter Butler of the University of California, Los Angeles. It gives evidence of increased pre-cancerous changes in diabetic patients taking incretin mimetics, the public advocacy group Public Citizen said in a statement.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) hinted at the findings earlier this month when it said it was looking over unpublished findings by a group of academic researchers suggesting pre-cancerous cellular changes may be connected to Type 2 diabetes treatments, said. In addition to Januvia, drugs including Bristol-Myers Squibb Co.’s Byetta and Novo Nordisk A/S’s Victoza also fall into this category.

Researchers examined pancreases of 20 diabetics and found a 40 percent increase in pancreatic cells, as well as cell damage in the people treated with incretin therapy, said.  Eight of the 20 pancreases were from people taking incretin therapy, while 12 were on a different treatment. Seven of the eight patients using incretin therapies for a year or more were using Merck’s Januvia, while the other was using Byetta, said.

The concern over an increased risk of cancer in these drugs has existed since 2007, when the FDA said it received a high number of reports of pancreatitis in patients taking Byetta, said. Two years later, the FDA issued a similar alert for Januvia. Last month the journal JAMA Internal Medicine released an analysis of insurance records that showed such drugs may double a user’s risk of pancreatitis.

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