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Januvia is pharmaceutical giant Merck’s diabetes drug, the first in a class called dipeptidyl peptidase-4 (DPP-4) inhibitors. Though it works by a different mechanism, like many other diabetes drugs, it has been linked with serious complications.
The pancreas is responsible for releasing the hormones insulin and glucagon, thereby regulating how the body uses food and stores energy. Studies show that Januvia users are twice as likely to suffer from pancreatitis than those taking other diabetes treatments.
Pancreatitis is the inflammation of the pancreas. The pancreas both releases hormones as stated above, and also secretes digestive enzymes. Pancreatitis occurs when the digestive enzymes that are meant to aid in the digestion of food become active while still inside the pancreas instead of the small intestine.
There are two types of pancreatitis: acute, which is a sudden inflammation of the pancreas, and chronic, which is an ongoing inflammation of the pancreas.
Symptoms of pancreatitis include:
The same symptoms can occur with chronic pancreatitis, but may also be accompanied by constant pain in the upper abdomen and weight loss.
Complications of an attack of pancreatitis include damage to the heart, lungs, and kidneys. Pancreatic necrosis can also result, which can develop into secondary infection, or can require surgical intervention to remove the dead tissue.
The medical journal Gastroenterology found that compared to other treatments, Januvia users had a six-fold increase in risk of developing pancreatitis, and a 2.7 fold increase in developing pancreatic cancer. Pancreatic cancer has a high mortality rate, due in part to the fact that symptoms do not appear until the disease is in advanced stages.
In addition, a recent study in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine found that patients hospitalized with pancreatitis were twice as likely to be taking Januvia or Byetta than a control group of diabetics.
The FDA has required Merck to revise Januvia’s prescribing information to warn of the risks of developing pancreatic complications, as well as to monitor patients carefully for symptoms of complications while on Januvia.
In 2012, Merck made $4 billion off of Januvia prescriptions, and an additional $1.65 billion on variations of Januvia. At Kirkendall Dwyer LLP, we believe that if a pharmaceutical company is going to profit from a treatment that it touts as safe, then that treatment should actually be safe. Despite mounting evidence to the contrary, Merck continues to insist that Januvia is a safe diabetes treatment. If you or a loved one have been injured by Januvia or another drug, call a Kirkendall Dwyer LLP Januvia attorney today, or fill out our free consultation form. Let us help you recover the compensation you deserve.