Januvia (sitagliptin) is used to help control blood sugar levels for patients with type 2 diabetes. However, research conducted in 2013 confirmed a link between Januvia and pancreatic cancer which has led to legal allegations against the drug’s manufacturer, Merck and Company.
What is Januvia?
Januvia is a prescription medication used to treat adults with type 2 diabetes. When used as part of a healthy lifestyle plan encompassing exercise and diet, Januvia helps patients control their blood sugar levels.Januvia, a type 2 diabetes medication manufactured by Merck & Co., generates an estimated $6 billion in sales each year.
The FDA approved Januvia for treating type 2 diabetes in 2006. Since hitting the market, it has become one of the most commonly prescribed medications to reduce blood sugar levels in patients with type 2 diabetes. By managing blood sugar, Januvia lessens the risk of other medical conditions caused by type 2 diabetes such as heart disease, kidney damage and eye problems.
Unfortunately, there are several long-term risks associated with Januvia that can impact a person’s life forever. Numerous reports have linked Januvia to different cancers including pancreatic cancer and thyroid cancer. Even with new, stricter label requirements, Merck & Co. has been sued over their negligence to inform consumers about life-threatening side effects.
How does Januvia work?
With type 2 diabetes, a person’s body does not use insulin the way it should. This affects your blood glucose levels, which are abnormally high with type 2 diabetes. Januvia works by increasing certain chemicals in your body that help lower your blood sugar levels. While Januvia is not a cure for type 2 diabetes, it can keep your blood sugar levels under control with exercise and a healthy diet.
Januvia comes in a tablet form and is generally taken once a day. It may sometimes be used in combination with other diabetes medications, so talk with your doctor about your type 2 diabetes plan to determine the best form of treatment. This may include healthy lifestyle changes, monitoring your blood sugar levels with a blood glucose meter and frequent visits with your physician.
SIDE EFFECTS of JANUVIA
While there are many benefits of taking Januvia to help control your type 2 diabetes, some people may experience adverse side effects. Many side effects are minor and not harmful to your health. However, if you experience severe side effects that do not go away, you should seek medical attention immediately.
Pancreatic cancer, thyroid cancer and acute pancreatitis are several of the most dangerous side effects of Januvia. Because of this, let your health provider know if you have a medical history of pancreatitis, gallstones or kidney problems.
Januvia may also cause changes in your blood sugar levels. High or low blood pressure makes you susceptible to various complications such as a heart attack, stroke, dehydration and brain damage.
Signs of an abnormal blood sugar level may involve:
- Blurred vision
- Feeling shaky
- Dry mouth
Check your blood sugar levels regularly to make sure your type 2 diabetes remains under control. If you notice a significant change in your results, tell your doctor.
Discuss potential risks and health complications with your doctor before taking Januvia. If you experience any uncomfortable symptoms while taking Januvia, notify your physician as soon as possible.
Common Side Effects
- Joint or muscle pain
- Runny nose
- Stomach pain
Serious Side Effects
- Pancreatic cancer
- Thyroid cancer
- Fast heartbeat
- Burning in your eyes
- Trouble breathing/shortness of breath
- Red or purplish rash
Who is at Risk?
Januvia affects patients in different ways, regardless of gender or age. Research has found a link between Januvia and pancreatic abnormalities that can lead to pancreatitis. There are three primary forms of pancreatitis that are caused by Januvia: acute pancreatitis, necrotizing pancreatitis and hemorrhagic pancreatitis.
- Acute pancreatitis: Happens suddenly and can be extremely painful, and even life-threatening.
- Necrotizing pancreatitis: A severe form of acute pancreatitis and has high rates of mortality.
- Hemorrhagic pancreatitis: Causes sudden abdominal pain, nausea and fever. Due to the bleeding and paralysis of the digestive tract, it can be fatal.
It’s important to seek immediate medical attention if you experience any serious side effects from taking Januvia.
Evidence of Januvia Complications
Within its first few years on the market, Januvia received many reports about its harmful side effects. In September 2009, Merck & Co. was required to update the warning label with information about the risk of developing pancreatitis while taking the medication.
Januvia manufacturer Merck & Co. informed the FDA it would complete additional research about the drug’s pancreatic safety and provide documentation by June 2011. However, the agency never received the information. In February 2012, Merck & Co. received a notice about failing to conduct further research as promised. Roughly a year later, in March 2013, the FDA launched its own investigation that looked into the the relationship between Januvia and pancreatic cancer. The results showed that taking Januvia could in fact double the risk of hospitalization due to pancreatitis, which can lead to pancreatic cancer.
After the research findings were made available to the general public, numerous lawsuits were filed against Merck & Co. for their lack of research and warnings. Allegations brought against the manufacturer claim:
- Insufficient information about the potential side effects
- Failure to warn physicians about monitoring for pancreatitis symptoms
- Refusal to issue a recall after studies showed the link between pancreatic cancer and Januvia
Drug Reactions with Januvia
Januvia may cause an unwanted reaction when taken with other medications including those that are prescription, over-the-counter, supplements and herbal remedies. When different drugs interact with one another, they may not be as effective.
Provide your doctor with a list of all current medications you are taking so they can determine the best treatment for your type 2 diabetes.
Many drugs can interact with Januvia and cause unwanted reactions
Some of the drugs include:
- Diabetes medications
- Aspirin and other salicylates
- Sulfa drugs
- Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs
Last Edited: October 31, 2017
- Merck & Co. (2010). HIGHLIGHTS OF PRESCRIBING INFORMATION. October 2016. https://www.merck.com/product/usa/pi_circulars/j/januvia/januvia_pi.pdf
- FDA. (2013). Medication Guide Januvia. October 2016. http://www.fda.gov/downloads/drugs/drugsafety/ucm204269.pdf
- Herper, Matthew. (2015). Giant Study Boosts Januvia, Merck's $6 Billion Drug. October 2016. http://www.forbes.com/sites/matthewherper/2015/06/08/giant-study-boosts-januvia-mercks-6-billion-drug/#6d20f4914539
- Everyday Health. (2016). What Is Januvia (Sitagliptin)? October 2016. http://www.everydayhealth.com/drugs/januvia
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- Diabetes Health. (2009). JANUVIA TAKEN ALONE MAY INCREASE PANCREATIC RISKS, BUT USING IT WITH METFORMIN REMOVES THE THREAT. October 2016. https://www.diabeteshealth.com/januvia-taken-alone-may-increase-pancreatic-risks-but-using-it-with-metformin-removes-the-threat/
- Mayo Clinic. (2016). Pancreatitis. October 2016. http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/pancreatitis/home/ovc-20252596
- Shyu, Sainani, Sahni, Chick, Chauhan, at. el. (2014). Necrotizing Pancreatitis: Diagnosis, Imaging, and Intervention. October 2016. http://pubs.rsna.org/doi/pdf/10.1148/rg.345130012
- John Hopkins Medicine. (2014). Acute Pancreatitis. October 2016. http://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/gastroenterology_hepatology/_pdfs/pancreas_biliary_tract/acute_pancreatitis.pdf