On March 14, 2013 the FDA issued a Drug Safety Communication informing the public that it is evaluating unpublished new findings by a group of academic researchers that suggest an increased risk of pancreatitis, or inflammation of the pancreas, and pre-cancerous cellular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 (brand names: Byetta and Bydureon), liraglutide (brand name: Victoza), sitagliptin (brand names: Januvia, Janumet, Janumet XR, and Juvisync), saxagliptin (brand names: Onglyza and Kombiglyze XR), alogliptin (brand names: Nesina, Kazano, and Oseni), and linagliptin (brand names Tradjenta and 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. FDA will communicate its final conclusions and recommendations when its review is complete or when the Agency has additional information to report.
FDA previously warned the public about postmarketing reports of acute pancreatitis, including fatal and serious nonfatal cases, associated with the use of incretin mimetic drugs exenatide and sitagliptin. A recently published study that examined insurance records also found the use of exenatide or sitagliptin could double the risk of developing acute pancreatitis. The Warnings and Precautions section of the drug labels and the 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. Further, FDA has not concluded these drugs may cause or contribute to the development of pancreatic cancer.
At this time, health care professionals should continue to follow the prescribing recommendations in the drug labels.
FDA is continuing to evaluate all available data to further understand this potential safety issue. In addition, FDA will participate in the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases and National Cancer Institute’s Workshop on Pancreatitis-Diabetes-Pancreatic Cancer in June 2013 to gather and share additional information.
FDA urges both patients and health care professionals to report adverse events involving incretin mimetics to the FDA MedWatch program at www.fda.gov/MedWatch.