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Is Byetta Increasing Pancreatitis?

11/5/2009
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The latest buzz in the legal industry focuses on the drug Byetta. The diabetes drug exenatide, trade name Byetta, has been linked to an increased risk of a serious and often deadly form of pancreatitis. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently issued a warning that Byetta might increase risk of acute pancreatitis, a painful inflammation of the pancreas. The FDA is also calling for a stronger warning label on the drug. Despite numerous claims of patients diagnosed with pancreatitis who have taken Byetta, including several deaths, neither the FDA or the drug manufacturer, Amylin Pharmaceuticals, have announced plans to issue a Byetta recall.

Diabetes Health Magazine recently published a study conducted by researchers from Medco Health Solutions, Inc., that says, “Type 2 diabetes patients who take Byetta run no greater risk of developing pancreatitis than patients with type 2 diabetes who do not take the drug.” The study results were presented at the 69th Scientific Sessions of the American Diabetes Association, showing only 0.44 percent of exenatide users experienced an episode of acute pancreatitis. However, Amylin and the drug company Eli Lilly and Company who collaborate on Byetta, said that pancreatitis is rare in the general public but more common among type 2 diabetes patients, who consequently, are the ones taking medications for the treatment of their diabetes.

So is there a link between type 2 diabetics who take Byetta and pancreatitis, or are their chances of developing the illness greater regardless of what medication they are on? Studies are still being conducted to answer these questions. Industry observers like David Kliff, the publisher of Diabetic Investor, says “There are more than 700,000 patients using Byetta and 30 reports of pancreatitis. That’s 0.00428 percent of one case in 23,364 patients. That’s rare.”

It is very likely this isn’t the last we will hear about Byetta. As consumers, we are bombarded by drug company ads telling us to ask our doctor for their medication. Before you take any medications, do your research. Ask your doctor about the side effects, search the web for studies on the drug, and make an informed choice about what medications to take. Don’t let the drug companies make the choices for you regarding the health of yourself and your loved ones.

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