Januvia and Byetta diabetes drugs could double risk of pancreatitis

Tue, 26 Feb 2013
A research study of over 1,000 acute pancreatitis patient records showed a two fold increase in risk for patients taking the anti-diabetic drugs Januvia (sitagliptin) and Byetta (exenatide).

Pancreatitis is an inflammation of the pancreas which can cause severe pain around the top of the abdomen and can sometimes be life threatening. In the UK, around 25,000 people are hospitalised with acute pancreatitis each year and almost 1,000 deaths are recorded as a result of the condition. Risk factors for pancreatitis include having gallstones, being obese and drinking higher quantities of alcohol.

Data from the study came from insurance records in the US submitted between 2005 and 2008. The drugs Januvia and Byetta act in similar ways as they both increase the level of the hormone GLP-1 in the body. This hormone works by increasing the release of insulin and decreasing the release of glucagon from the pancreas in response to meals. The drugs have also become popularly prescribed as they can also help reduce appetite.

Whilst Januvia and Byetta have been picked out by the study, there are a number of other drugs that work in similar ways. Januvia is in a class of drugs known as DPP-4 inhibitors and other drugs in this class, such as Galvus (vildagliptin) and Onglyza (saxagliptin), work in a similar way. Byetta is in a class of drugs called incretin mimetics and other drugs in this class include Victoza (liraglutide) and Bydureon (exenatide).

Acute pancreatitis affects about 1 in 2,500 people each year. If you have concerns about taking these drugs, speak to your doctor and do not stop taking these drugs without consulting your doctor.

The study, Glucagonlike Peptide 1-Based Therapies and Risk of Hospitalization for Acute Pancreatitis in Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus, was carried out by Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore and is published in the JAMA International Medicine journal.
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