Two relatively new drugs for type 2 diabetes have been linked to a higher risk of pancreatic cancer. Byetta and Januvia are pricey prescription medications that can cost hundreds of dollars a month. They are used to control blood sugar when other less costly treatments aren’t adequate. Byetta can also help people with diabetes better control their weight. One complication, however, is pancreatitis. Inflammation of the pancreas can be extremely painful and even life threatening.
Now researchers have analyzed the FDA’s adverse event reporting system and found that both drugs nearly triple the risk of pancreatic cancer. This is a very hard-to-treat malignancy. Even though the absolute risk of coming down with pancreatic cancer is small, the prognosis is not good. No one should stop taking either Byetta or Januvia based on this preliminary research, but patients should discuss this potential risk with their physicians.
[Gastroenterology, July, 2011]