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The FDA ( Food and Drug Administration ) is evaluating unpublished new findings by a group of academic researchers that suggest an increased risk of pancreatitis and pre-cancerous cellular changes called pancreatic duct metaplasia in patients with type 2 diabetes treated with a class of drugs called incretin mimetics. These findings were based on examination of a small number of pancreatic tissue specimens taken from patients after they died from unspecified causes. FDA has asked the researchers to provide the methodology used to collect and study these specimens and to provide the tissue samples so the Agency can further investigate potential pancreatic toxicity associated with the incretin mimetics.

Drugs in the incretin mimetic class include Exenatide ( Byetta, Bydureon ), Liraglutide ( Victoza ), Sitagliptin ( Januvia, Janumet, Janumet XR, Juvisync ), Saxagliptin ( Onglyza, Kombiglyze XR ), Alogliptin ( Nesina, Kazano, Oseni ), and Linagliptin ( Tradjenta, Jentadueto ). These drugs work by mimicking the incretin hormones that the body usually produces naturally to stimulate the release of insulin in response to a meal. They are used along with diet and exercise to lower blood sugar in adults with type 2 diabetes.

FDA has not reached any new conclusions about safety risks with incretin mimetic drugs. This early communication is intended only to inform the public and health care professionals that the Agency intends to obtain and evaluate this new information.

The Warnings and Precautions section of drug labels and patient Medication Guides for incretin mimetics contain warnings about the risk of acute pancreatitis. FDA has not previously communicated about the potential risk of pre-cancerous findings of the pancreas with incretin mimetics. FDA has not concluded these drugs may cause or contribute to the development of pancreatic cancer.

At this time, patients should continue to take their medicine as directed until they talk to their health care professional, and health care professionals should continue to follow the prescribing recommendations in the drug labels.

Source: FDA, 2013

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