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UPDATE: Research linking two diabetes drugs to cancer spawns debate

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2011-09-20 10:05

Glucagon-like-peptide-1 (GLP-1)-derived diabetes medications (exenatide and sitagliptin) have been in the news for a "possible" link to cancer, which has generated some debate between drug manufacturers and researchers. Professor Michael A. Nauck, (Diabetes Center Bad Lauterberg, Germany) says" that there is no evidence that these therapies [Byetta and Januvia] increase cancer risk.

Research conducted by Robert Elashoff of the University of California at Los Angeles, which included Dr. Peter Butler, director of the Larry L. Hillblom Islet Research Center at UCLA found a link between the drugs and cancer when they explored FDA drug databases, but so far, there is no “hard” evidence that Byetta or other GLP-1 drugs cause cancer, leading drug companies to defend the medications.

Diabetes drug safety concerning

Butler says cancer risk from the two diabetes drugs is a concern, based on mouse studies. He also warned more studies are needed to prove or disprove the drugs might raise the risk of pancreatic and thyroid cancer or diabetes.

Dr. Nauck writes the research finding Elashoff and colleagues poses "...a serious issue of whether or not incretin-based medications potentially increase the risk for pancreatitis, pancreatic cancer, and thyroid cancer.

Since the firm exclusion of such a risk would mean analysing large databases with sufficient numbers of patients and events… he suggests the possible link between the two diabetes drugs and cancer “needs to be carefully and critically scrutinised."

In other words, it will take a long time to show if the type 2 diabetes drugs, Januvia and Byetta, increase the risk of cancer.

EmaxHealth was asked by one of the drug company’s PR firm, to change our title of the UCLA research piece, which didn't originally include the word "possibility" or "possible" link between the diabetes drugs and pancreatitis and cancer.

The firm stated the title reflected an "inaccuracy" per an e-mail communication. Amylin Pharmaceuticals, Inc. and Lilly USA, LLC manufacture Byetta and Merck is the manufacturer of Januvia.

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