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Incretin Mimetic Drugs

Diabetes Drugs Investigated for Cancer Link

Several Type 2 diabetes drugs, including Januvia, Byetta, and Victoza, are being investigated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for potential links to pancreatitis and pancreatic cancer.

On March 14, 2013, the FDA released a statement informing the public about unpublished research findings which indicate that incretin mimetics, a class of Type 2 Diabetes drugs, may be associated with pancreatic duct metaplasia (pre-cancerous cellular changes) and pancreatitis (inflammation of the pancreas.)

According to their official Drug Safety Communication, the FDA has not concluded whether these drugs may cause or contribute to the development of pancreatic cancer but will continue to investigate the matter.


The drugs involved in the study are referred to as incretin mimetics. According to the FDA, incretin mimetics 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 to treat Type 2 diabetes. Drugs in this class include:

  • Exenatide (Byetta, Bydureon)
  • Liraglutide (Victoza)
  • Sitagliptin (Januvia, Janumet, Janumet XR, Juvisync)
  • Saxagliptin (Onglyza, Kombiglyze XR)
  • Alogliptin (Nesina, Kazano, Oseni)
  • Linagliptin (Tradjenta, Jentadueto)


The FDA previously warned the public about serious and fatal cases of pancreatitis in patients taking the incretin mimetic drugs exenatide (Byetta) and sitagliptin (Januvia).

In 2007, the FDA warned that Byetta (exenatide) had been linked to several cases of acute pancreatitis. In 2008, the FDA released an update, stating that the agency had received additional cases of pacreatitis, including cases of necrotizing pancreatitis, in patients taking Byetta. Two deaths were reported at that time.

In 2009, the FDA revised the warning on Januvia and Janumet (sitaglipten) to include reports of 88 post-marketing cases of acute pancreatitis, including two cases of hemorrhagic or necrotizing pancreatitis, between 2006 and 2009.


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