Some clients know they may not live to see the outcome of their diabetes drug lawsuits. Cancer of the pancreas is considered to be one of the most aggressive forms of cancer--the American Cancer Society states that people diagnosed with exocrine pancreatic cancer stage 1A have a 14% 5-year survival rate; the rate for stage 4 is 1%*.
In discussing the ongoing litigation alleging Januvia-related pancreatic cancer, Kennerly refers to studies that support allegations of a link between the diabetes drug and cancer. For example, a 2010 study published in Gastroenterology** concluded that sitagliptin (Januvia) or exenatide increased the odds ratio for reported pancreatitis 6-fold as compared with other therapies. Kennerly is quick to point out, however, that, “You usually don’t find a definite link on the basis of one study. What we see, however, are enough signals so that we are moving forward on these cases, and we think that in time there will be more research that will connect this group of drugs to pancreatic cancer.”
Still, Kennerly is convinced, based on the evidence he has reviewed in representing diabetes drug lawsuit victims, that the studies completed to-date are telling: “It’s not beyond the realm of possibility to think that changing the enzymes in your pancreas might end up resulting in cancer,” says Kennerly. “That’s one of the speculated mechanisms for how cancer occurs. The pathways are disrupted to a degree that causes cell mutations."
While more research may help button down a suspected causal link between incretin-inhibitor drugs such as Januvia and cancer of the pancreas, those type 2 diabetes patients who've been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer know their time is limited. In referring to his conversations with plaintiffs he is representing in diabetes drug lawsuits, “I don’t need to be blunt with clients,” Kennerly says gravely, “because the doctors have already been blunt with them.”
So far the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is taking a wait-and-see approach pending further study. In a recent interview with Medscape Medical News***, Lisa Kubasa, from the FDA's Center for Drug Evaluation and Research (CDER) stated, "FDA's review is ongoing as pancreatitis and pancreatic cancer data are being collected in the cardiovascular outcome trials being conducted with this class of drugs. Additionally, there is an ongoing epidemiological study."
"Pancreatic Cancer Survival by Stage", American Cancer Society, January 28, 2013, http://www.cancer.org/cancer/pancreaticcancer/detailedguide/pancreatic-cancer-survival-rates
** "Pancreatitis, Pancreatic, and Thyroid Cancer With Glucagon-Like Peptide-1??"Based Therapies", Gastroenterology: The Official Journal of the AGA Institute, pub. February 21, 2011, http://www.gastrojournal.org/article/S0016-5085%2811%2900172-7/fulltext
*** "FDA Sides With EMA on Incretin Diabetes Drugs", Medscape Medical News, August 1, 2013, http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/808830
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