Today, millions of Type II diabetics take the newest class of FDA-approved drugs to control their blood sugar. But according to a new study, these drugs are more dangerous than older medications. Far more dangerous. So before you switch to the latest and greatest diabetes drug, get the facts.
Chances are, if you’re a diabetic, you’ve heard about the hot, new drugs Januvia (sitagliptin) and Byetta (exenatide). They are peptide-1-based (GLP-1) drugs. This means they have short chains of amino acids that mimic some metabolic effects for regulating blood sugar.
In a recent study, researchers from Johns Hopkins University (JHU) in Baltimore followed nearly 1,300 patients with Type II diabetes who took a GLP-1 drug. And they compared these patients to diabetics who took other medications.
They found that the GLP-1 drugs were twice as likely to cause hospitalization for acute pancreatitis when compared to older drugs. And these hospitalizations occurred soon after beginning the new drug regimen. Most often within two months of taking the drugs.
According JHU researchers, the GLP-1 drugs appear to harm the pancreas and trigger inflammation. Pancreatitis is painful inflammation of the pancreas. And people with diabetes already run an increased risk for pancreatitis. Add a diabetes drug into the mix that harms the pancreas, and you’re just asking for trouble.
The pancreas normally releases hormones, such as insulin and glucagon, into the blood. It also releases enzymes that help digest food, such as amylase, into the GI tract.
When amylase levels increase in the blood, it’s a sign of pancreatitis. It means inflammation in the pancreas has prevented the enzyme’s normal excretion into the gastrointestinal tract.
It turns out researchers and government regulators knew about this serious problem for some time.
Pancreatitis was a noted side effect of these GLP-1 drugs in animal studies reported to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. But the Johns Hopkins researchers say their new study is the first to accurately assess the same risk in humans.
“These agents are used by millions of Americans with diabetes. These new diabetes drugs are very effective in lowering blood glucose,” JHU study leader Dr. Sonal Singh told Science Daily.
“However, important safety findings may not have been fully explored, and some side effects such as acute pancreatitis don’t appear until widespread use after approval,” he said.
Yes, Dr. Singh, we’ve all seen this far too many times…
A new drug for a common medical condition hits the market amid great fanfare. It doesn’t represent any kind of new therapeutic breakthrough. But it does introduce new hazards. And the hazards only appear after millions of unsuspecting people start taking it.
Such now appears to be the case with Januvia and Byetta. As with Actos and Avandia before them.
Patients who take these drugs should know about the symptoms of pancreatitis. If you take one of these drugs and start to experience abdominal pain, nausea, and persistent vomiting, seek immediate treatment.
Unfortunately, Dr. Singh and the other experts still aren’t asking the tough questions…
Why does anyone take these dangerous, new, and unproven drugs in the first place? Furthermore, why does any doctor recommend them?
We have existing oral treatments for diabetes. They have already been proven safe and effective in tens of millions of people around the world for the past several decades.
Last December, in my Insiders’ Cures newsletter, I reported in detail about metformin. It’s actually a natural product derived from the French lilac, also known as goat’s rue. Men and women in Europe have used goat’s rue for centuries.
It was redeveloped as a modern drug a few decades ago. It quickly became the standard oral treatment for Type II diabetes.
Metformin does have one major “side effect.” But in this case, it’s a good one. In fact, metformin has being proven to lower the risk of several chronic diseases, including cancer. In one study, men and women who took metformin lowered their risk of developing pancreatic cancer up to 500 percent.
But no one wants to talk about metformin. It’s old news. It’s an old drug. And besides all that, metformin has been on the market for so long that it’s available as an inexpensive generic drug.
So, if you’re diabetic, chances are the drug companies try to persuade your doctor to push Januvia and Byetta instead of metformin.
And that’s no surprise.
According to a 2007 report, Merck spent 72 percent of its total U.S. budget for Januvia on “free” samples. And 27 percent went to “professional contact” with doctors. So they spend 27 percent of their money courting doctors and taking them out to lunch and dinner. And the doctors walk away with plenty of “free” samples of Januvia in their pockets to give to patients.
Hold on…I think we just “diagnosed” the real problem with metformin. It doesn’t make headlines because it no longer makes enough money for the drug companies. And drug companies don’t give out samples of metformin anymore now that it’s gone generic.
On the other hand, Januvia and Byetta together pull in more than $4 billion dollars a
1. JAMA Internal Medicine, 2013; : 1 DOI: 10.1001/jamainternmed.2013.2720