Januvia, and the similar drug Janumet, were developed by Merck & Co. to treat type 2 diabetes. Many pharmaceutical companies have gotten a type 2 diabetes drug on the market in the last decade. These drugs have the potential to be big money makers for the companies because of the increasing rate of diabetes in the U.S.
Patients who have taken either of these drugs have reported serious complications and lawsuits have been started claiming that Merck did not adequately warn the public about those risks. Some people have suffered from pancreatitis, pancreatic cancer, and thyroid cancer while taking Januvia or Janumet. If you took either of these drugs and feel that you weren’t warned about the potential complications you ultimately experienced, you may be in a position to start your own Januvia lawsuit.
What is Januvia?
Januvia is a drug designed to treat type 2 diabetes, a chronic illness associated with dangerously high blood sugar levels. When it is left untreated this type of diabetes can lead to serious complications that eventually become debilitating and life threatening. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved Januvia in 2006 and Janumet in 2007 for treatment of type 2 diabetes along with lifestyle changes including a healthy diet, exercise, and weight loss.
Januvia is the generic drug sitagliptin and Janumet is a combination of sitagliptin and another drug called metformin. Sitagliptin belongs to the class of drugs called dipeptidyl peptidase-4 (DPP-4) inhibitors. These are drugs that inhibit the protein DPP-4. The result of inhibiting it is an increase in insulin production, which regulates blood sugar, and a decrease in the amount of sugar released into the blood by the liver.
Janumet attacks high blood sugar levels with two drugs. It contains sitagliptin as well as metformin. Metformin is a type of drug called a biguanide and it acts to slow the liver’s production of sugar, reduces how much sugar is absorbed from food, and increases sensitivity to insulin.
Pancreatitis Leads to Januvia Lawsuits
Both sitagliptin and metformin have the potential to cause side effects in users, which can range from infections to diarrhea to headaches, but most are not serious. Metformin may cause lactic acidosis, which is serious, but can be treated. One of the biggest concerns with Januvia and Janumet has been the possibility of developing acute pancreatitis, and this condition has stimulated a number of lawsuits against Merck.
In 2009 the FDA issued a warning that there seemed to be a connection between sitagliptin and pancreatitis. The agency had received nearly 100 reports in the adverse events reporting system that indicated pancreatitis could be a potentially serious complication from Januvia and Janumet. Pancreatitis is the inflammation of the pancreas, and when acute sets in suddenly and worsens quickly. It causes symptoms like severe abdominal and back pain, and vomiting and nausea that only get worse. Treatment is needed right away to prevent this condition from being fatal.
The FDA is also continuing to investigate the risks associated with sitagliptin, which also may include pancreatic cancer. Pancreatitis is known to develop into cancer in some patients, so the risk is possible and could be fatal if not caught and treated. Patients with pancreatic cancer have come forward and blamed their condition on Januvia or Janumet. These claims have led to lawsuits against Merck that are still ongoing.
Reports have also been made about the potential risk that Januvia and Janumet could increase the risk of patients developing thyroid cancer. Some early research has found that there may be a slightly increased risk of this rare cancer in patients taking sitagliptin as compared to those taking another type of drug for treating type 2 diabetes. Research will continue to uncover the extent of the risk, and in the meantime patients may suffer not knowing that there is a risk of having thyroid cancer while trying to treat diabetes.
Consolidated Januvia Lawsuits
In the decade since sitagliptin has been on the market, hundreds, and possibly thousands of people, have experienced serious and devastating side effects and complications from taking either Januvia or Janumet. These people are firing back at Merck by filing lawsuits and accusing the company of minimizing the risks of their medications and promoting them as safer than they really are. The lawsuits largely claim that Merck is guilty of a failure to warn patients and doctors what could happen to a handful of unlucky type 2 diabetes.
So far, a group of 744 lawsuits consolidated in California has not been successful in forcing Merck to pay for the suffering of hundreds of patients. Although the plaintiffs are appealing, a judge threw out the cases on the grounds that the FDA would never have let Merck put pancreatic cancer as a risk on Januvia’s label. Not only did these patients, who suffered and in some cases died of cancer, have their cases thrown out, they were charged by Merck for legal fees.
There have also been plenty of individual suits brought against Merck by people who suffered and believe that the company should have done more to warn them about the risks of using sitagliptin. One such suit was brought by a man whose wife took Januvia starting in 2005 and died of pancreatic cancer in 2009. The man claims that Merck is liable for her death, that the company concealed information and misrepresented the product. The case has not yet been resolved.
This is just one example among many similar cases in which someone lost a loved one to pancreatitis or pancreatic cancer. All of these victims were taking Januvia and sometimes other type 2 diabetes drugs as well. They all claim that Merck over-promoted its drugs and under-represented the risks. They feel that their loved ones would still be here if it weren’t for the lack of warning about medication risks. These people are still waiting for resolution, but in the meantime, you too could get involved. If you or someone you loved was negatively affected by Januvia or Janumet speak to a lawyer about your next move.