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Byetta and Januvia Lawsuits: What Went Wrong?

The drugs Byetta and Januvia have been commonly used to treat type-2 diabetes, but recent studies show their linkage to pancreatic cancer in patients using the drug for an extended period of time. Risks of pancreatic cancer and inflammation of the pancreas were known by the manufacturers, but this information was withheld from patients, causing severe adverse effects and death.

The Science Behind the Pancreatic Cancer Risk

Byetta and Januvia are glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1) based medications that can lower blood glucose levels by stimulating insulin secretion from pancreatic cells. They inhibit the enzyme DPP-4 to increase insulin production however this can also lead to weaker defenses against cancer since DPP-4 has been found to decrease the spread of cancer cells. A version of Byetta that is long acting can also expose users to thyroid cancer risks.

Those who have taken these medications can suffer from:

  • Pancreatic inflammation
  • Hemorrhagic pancreatitis
  • Necrotizing pancreatitis
  • Severe abdominal pain and back pain
  • Pancreatic cancer
  • Abnormal blood pressure
  • Elevated heart and respiratory rates
  • Kidney disfuntion
  • Thyroid cancer
  • Severe nausea and vomiting

Some of these adverse effects can continue and become fatal, even if a patient has discontinued the use of Januvia or Byetta.

Pancreatic cancer is a deadly, fast spreading cancer that can cause damage by attacking the lining of the pancreas. Both pancreatic cancer and thyroid cancer can require heavy hospitalization.

What happened?

Byetta, manufactured by Amylin, was approved for use by the FDA in 2005. The drug, mostly referred to as the Byetta pen, has been used by millions of people in the U.S., with annual sales of $1 billion. In 2007, the FDA alerted healthcare providers that Byetta was associated with acute, hemorrhagic and necrotizing pancreatitis, with multiple updated warnings within a year. Rather than recalling the drug or warning patients  using the medication, Amylin continued to promote the use of Byetta despite its health risks. Amylin also withheld these risks in order to gain approval for Bydureon in 2012, a different version of Byetta. Amylin is being accused of placing profits over patient’s health.

Bristol-Myers Squibb purchased Amylin Pharmaceuticals later in 2012, making both companies responsible for any wrong doing.

Januvia, manufactured by Merck, was approved for use by the FDA in 2006. Januvia is a major breadwinner for Merck pharmaceuticals, with close to a $1 billion dollars in sales up until recent years.  In 2009, the FDA first discovered a link between Januvia and pancreatitis and ordered further studies to be done by Merck Pharmaceuticals. Merck, however, delayed reporting these safety risks to patients in order to promote further sales of the drug. The FDA responded by reprimanding the company in 2012. During the years of 2006 through 2009, the FDA had received 88 reports of acute pancreatitis in patients taking Januvia. After further investigation, the FDA determined that 19 of these reports occurred within 30 days of beginning Januvia.

In 2011, a study conducted by UCLA found that those who used Byetta and Januvia are at an increased risk of pancreatic cancer by 270%, and increased the risk of thyroid cancer by 148%. In February 2013, the Journal for the American Medical Association published a study reporting that drugs like Januvia can double the risk of pancreatitis, which if left untreated can lead to pancreatic cancer. Not only is the drug Januvia still available to customers, Merck has not added warnings about the cancer risks associated with Januvia.

Use the contact form to the right to learn about the ways you can receive help for any losses you or a loved one has suffered.

Relief for Damages

Because neither Merck, Amylin and Eli Lilly failed to warn users about the risks associated with the medication, many have decided to take legal action in the form of lawsuits.

The drug manufacturers, according to the plaintiffs, are liable because:

  • They inadequately labeled the medications.
  • They failed to test and monitor the drugs’ adverse effects in order to gain FDA approval
  • Any results found were not reported to doctors or patients, and vehemently concealed from the public.
  • They failed to issue a recall when risks associated with the drug became apparent.

Patients argue that if they had received this vital information prior to taking the medication, they would have prevented damages.

Plaintiffs have sought monetary relief  for damages like medical expenses (both past and future), home health care, lost earnings (past and future), pain and suffering and wrongful death. If the option is available plaintiffs are also seeking punitive damages to keep the manufacturers from further wrongdoing in the future.

The Lawsuits Begin

Lawsuits against Byetta manufacturers began as early as 2008.

Due to the large amount of cases in California, the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California has grouped over a dozen Januvia and Byetta personal injury lawsuits together filed against Merck, Amylin and Eli Lilly.  With a high number of claims in New Jersey, this state may choose to follow the same path.

Because a high number of claims are expected throughout the United States, cases will being in the state courts. As more claims form, a federal judicial panel may choose to consolidate all lawsuits into a federal multi-district litigation.

Many lawsuits have been filed as of April 2013, but no settlements or verdicts have been verified. A bellwether jury trial is scheduled for summer of 2013 in the consolidated California state court proceedings, but considering there is a pending motion for a multi-district litigation, this trial is expected to be postponed.

Get the Help You Deserve

Treating adverse effects caused by Januvia and Byetta requires long-term recovery and care. Financial compensation may be able to help your loved ones recovery from medical expenses and lost income.

The statute of limitations in Texas is determined by a number of things including wrongful death claims, when pancreatic cancer was diagnosed, state where the medication was prescribed or taken and the state where the lawsuit is filed. Use the contact form to the right to get in contact with someone who can help you today.

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