Reports that two commonly used diabetes drugs may raise the risk of developing pancreatitis and pancreatic cancer are being investigated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
The health regulator has confirmed that it is looking at the type 2 diabetes drugs Januvia (from Merck and Co) and Byetta (from Bristol-Myers Squibb), as well as other medications that work in a similar way such as Novo Nordisk’s Victoza (liraglutide).
Both Januvia (sitagliptin) and Byetta (exenatide) made headlines earlier this month after a report published in the JAMA Internal Medicine journal indicated that users had a much greater risk of developing pancreatitis than those not taking the drugs .
The study of over 1,000 acute pancreatitis patient records showed a two-fold increase in risk of the disease for diabetic patients taking either drug.
In a statement, the FDA said: “These findings were based on examination of a small number of pancreatic tissue specimens taken from patients after they died from unspecified causes.”
The regulator has asked the researchers to explain how they collected and studied the specimens and to provide tissue samples so it can further assess the potential health risks.
“At this time, patients should continue to take their medicine as directed until they talk to their healthcare professional,” it added.
Pancreatitis is a potentially life-threatening condition that occurs when the pancreas becomes inflamed. It can cause severe pain around the top of the abdomen, and is responsible for almost 1,000 deaths a year in the UK alone.

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