Byetta, as well as the longer-lasting form of the same drug called Bydureon, is a medication used to treat type 2 diabetes. The drug was developed by Amylin Pharmaceuticals and Eli Lilly and Co., but Amylin was bought by Bristol Myers Squibb, which partners with AstraZeneca to make diabetes drugs. All of these companies have been implicated in designing, developing, marketing, and selling a drug that has proven to have serious risks.
Although Byetta can lower sugar levels in people with type 2 diabetes, evidence has now also shown that it can increase the risk of a patient developing pancreatitis, pancreatic cancer, thyroid cancer, and other serious complications. Byetta lawsuits have soared as more and more people come forward to describe the harm this drug has caused.
Byetta and Type 2 Diabetes
Eli Lilly and Amylin partnered with each other to pool resources in creating new drugs to treat type 2 diabetes. This condition is a chronic illness associated with high blood sugar levels. If not treated, high sugar levels can lead to serious and permanent complications like nerve damage and blindness. The cases of type 2 diabetes have been on the rise, which means drug companies have been devoting a lot of resources to develop new drugs to treat it and to get them on the market quickly.
Byetta and Bydureon are the generic drug exenatide, which is injected once or twice a day to control blood sugar. Exenatide belongs to a class of drugs called incretin mimetics. These drugs mimic natural compounds and stimulate the pancreas to produce more insulin, the hormone that is supposed to regulate blood sugar levels, but which has diminished effectiveness in people with type 2 diabetes. It also works to slow the rate at which food moves from the stomach to the intestines, minimizing sugar spikes.
Incretin mimetics like Byetta lower blood sugar, but also may cause common side effects. Most of these are not serious, like headaches, gastrointestinal upset, nausea, and dizziness. A few people on these drugs have faced much more serious consequences and the evidence is mounting that the medication can be implicated.
One of these serious possible risks is the development of thyroid cancer. In animal studies, Byetta caused thyroid cancer in lab rats. The thyroid is a gland in the throat that makes hormones related to metabolism, which may explain why incretin mimetics may affect it. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved Byetta in 2005 and did require that the label include a warning about thyroid cancer. Since the drug is still fairly new, more evidence may ultimately come to light proving it is linked to thyroid cancer in patients.
Pancreatitis and Pancreatic Cancer
Proven without a doubt is the fact that Byetta and other similar drugs increase the risk of developing pancreatitis and even pancreatic cancer. Both are rare, but possible for patients taking the drug. Some people have developed acute pancreatitis, which sets in suddenly and painfully and can be fatal if not treated right away. There is some evidence as well that the drug has led to the development of cancerous cells in the pancreases of some patients.
The risk is real enough that the FDA issued a warning in 2007 regarding all Byetta and Bydureon. The warning stated that these drugs may cause inflammation of the pancreas, also known as pancreatitis. At that time the FDA required that companies making incretin mimetics conduct further trials for safety. Following these studies the FDA updated its warning in 2013 to include information about the possibility of cancer cells developing in the pancreas.
Other Incretin Mimetics
Byetta and Bydureon are not the only type 2 diabetes drugs to cause serious problems and to have led to lawsuits brought by those affected. Januvia and Janumet are also incretin mimetics and are made by Merck. Novo Nordisk developed Victoza, another incretin mimetic. All of these face similar legal troubles because of the complications like pancreatitis and cancer.
Onglyza, an incretin mimetic made by AstraZeneca and Bristol Myers Squibb, has also been implicated in similar complications, but also in increasing the risk of heart failure. The FDA now requires that Onglyza include a warning that patients with heart failure or at risk for it should not use the drug. The warning came too late for some and lawsuits have been filed on behalf of patients who died of heart failure while taking Onglyza.
Incretin Mimetic and Byetta Lawsuits
There have been thousands of lawsuits filed because of the devastating complications patients experienced taking Byetta, Bydureon, and other incretin mimetics. These often get lumped together and there are several multidistrict litigation suits for Byetta, Bydureon, Victoza, Januvia, and Janumet. In one such case, over 600 cases were consolidated in California.
The plaintiffs allege that they developed pancreatitis because of taking one or more of the drugs. They also state that the companies that made the drugs did not warn patients and doctors about this risk and how serious it could be. In 2014 several of these individual lawsuits regarding Byetta were settled by AstraZeneca, leaving hundreds more still unsettled as part of the multidistrict legislation.
Filing a Byetta Lawsuit
If you suffered from taking Byetta or a similar incretin mimetic, you may have a valid case for seeking compensation. These large drug companies rushed to profit from the rising number of cases of type 2 diabetes in the U.S., and in doing so may have produced medications that have risks that are just too serious to warrant the benefits. Many people who suffered because of Byetta have chosen to file lawsuits to get compensation, and you have that right too.
The case is being made in a number of existing and settled lawsuits that the drug companies did not adequately warn patients of the risks of using their medications. They also aggressively marketed the drugs, and may have known of the risks while doing so. People have become very ill and some have died because of the incretin mimetics. To get the compensation you deserve for your suffering and illnesses, contact a lawyer and talk about your options.