Januvia and the similar drug Janumet are two medications made by Merck to treat type 2 diabetes along with diet and exercise changes. Merck got these two drugs approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 2006 and 2007 and since then has made a huge amount of money. Drugs like these have been so popular because more and more people in the U.S. are struggling with Type 2 diabetes.
Medications may be helpful for lowering blood sugar in patients with this chronic condition, but they come with risks. Januvia side effects range from infections to acute pancreatitis and even pancreatic cancer. As the risks and how serious they are become clearer, more people are blaming Merck for not warning them of the side effects that were possible with their drugs. These people are also suing the company seeking compensation for the damage they have suffered to their health.
How Januvia and Janumet Work
Januvia is the generic drug sitagliptin, while Janumet is a combination of sitagliptin and metformin. Merck developed sitagliptin to control high blood sugar in people with Type 2 diabetes. This is a chronic condition, typically caused by a poor diet and obesity. It is characterized by chronically high blood sugar levels. This happens when the body becomes less sensitive to insulin, the hormone that is supposed to lower blood sugar levels. Someone with Type 2 diabetes may also be producing less insulin from the pancreas.
Having blood sugar levels that are too high for a long period of time leads to serious health consequences, and ultimately to death. This is why it is so crucial for people with Type 2 diabetes to get their blood sugar under control. Drug companies have produced a number of drugs to do this in recent years as cases of the condition rise in the population.
Like other similar drugs Januvia and Janumet work to lower blood sugar, but are supposed to be used along with lifestyle changes that also lower blood sugar. Sitagliptin works by inhibiting an enzyme called DPP-4. In doing so it triggers the pancreas to secrete more insulin and it also prevents the liver from releasing too much sugar into the bloodstream after eating. Janumet includes metformin for a doubled effect. Metformin reduces how much sugar the body absorbs from a meal, increases sensitivity to insulin, and slows production of sugar in the liver.
Januvia and Janumet both act to lower blood sugar levels, which is crucial to preventing the complications of Type 2 diabetes, and even reversing the disease. On the other hand these drugs can cause side effects and patients and doctors need to weigh these risks against the benefits. Some of the more common Januvia side effects are headaches, joint pain, upper respiratory infections, diarrhea, and hypoglycemia, which is dangerously low blood sugar levels.
Janumet may trigger all of the same side effects because it also contains sitagliptin. It may also cause side effects because of the metformin. These include indigestion, muscle pains, and gas and bloating. Janumet can also cause lactic acidosis, a dangerous condition in which lactic acid builds up to high levels in the blood. It cannot be metabolized quickly enough and can cause fatigue, weakness, a slower or faster heartbeat, dizziness, feeling cold, vomiting, and shortness of breath. Lactic acidosis is serious and should not be ignored.
Sitagliptin and other drugs that inhibit DPP-4 have been found to be associated with an increased risk for pancreatitis. This is a swelling or inflammation in the pancreas, which can become life-threatening if not treated. Especially dangerous is acute pancreatitis. This happens when the condition comes on very quickly and severely and progresses dangerously. Acute pancreatitis causes severe abdominal pain, back pain, nausea, and vomiting, and only gets worse. It has to be treated immediately or it can be fatal.
Acute pancreatitis is one of the most serious of Januvia’s side effects. In 2009 the risk became evident enough that the FDA issued a warning about it. This came after the agency had received nearly 100 reports of cases of acute pancreatitis in people using sitagliptin. By 2013 the FDA had issued another warning and stated that it would be continuing the investigation into the connection between the diabetes drugs and pancreatitis and even a link to pancreatic cancer.
There is now evidence that Januvia and other similar drugs could also increase the risk of developing pancreatic cancer. The evidence is still being collected and analyzed, but a link would be serious as this is a very aggressive and deadly type of cancer. Symptoms of pancreatic cancer can be easy to miss in early stages, which is part of what makes it so deadly. While experts are evaluating the risk of this type of cancer from diabetic drugs, patients should be aware of the signs so they can get an early diagnosis.
Research into pancreatic cancer in diabetic patients is ongoing, with some studies finding no link. Others, though, have led to compelling evidence that patients taking drugs like Januvia are at risk. In one study, for example, researchers looked at the pancreatic cells from deceased patients who had diabetes. In those who had taken Januvia and other drugs like it, there was evidence of pre-cancerous cells in the pancreas.
Also troubling when it comes to Januvia and Janumet side effects is a possible link to thyroid cancer. This is another aggressive type of cancer, and also a rare one. It is the newest potential side effect identified, but as with pancreatic cancer, the extent of the risk is not clear yet. Some studies have shown a slightly increased risk and more research is ongoing. Current patients on these drugs should watch for signs of a thyroid tumor, including a lump in the throat, difficult swallowing, and a hoarse voice or coughing.
With all of the side effects that Januvia and Janumet can case, with more being discovered, it is no wonder that patients have sued Merck. Some are claiming that the company did not adequately warn them of some of the most serious risks like cancer and pancreatitis and that Merck promoted and sold a drug that it knew to come with such severe risks and side effects.
If you suffered side effects from using Januvia and Janumet, you may have a strong case against Merck. Your suffering has likely cost you in terms of money, pain, suffering, your job, and even relationships. A lawyer can help guide you and tell you if you are ready to take the next step and join the many lawsuits against Merck due to Januvia and Janumet side effects.