Onglyza and the similar combination drug Kombiglyze are both used to treat type 2 diabetes in people who are also using lifestyle changes to treat the condition. Saxagliptin is an active ingredient in both, and is a drug that was developed jointly by Bristol-Myers Squibb and AstraZeneca. The two major drug manufacturers came together to pool resources in developing treatments for type 2 diabetes as more people struggle with the chronic illness.
While these two medications can be effective at lowering blood sugar levels in people struggling with type 2 diabetes, they are far from perfect. In addition to the common and less serious side effects, Onglyza side effects may include pancreatitis, pancreatic cancer, and heart failure. Many newer type 2 diabetes drugs like these have been the subject of lawsuits over these potentially devastating side effects.
Onglyza and Blood Sugar
Type 2 diabetes is a chronic condition in which a person has become less sensitive to insulin and may also produce less insulin. Insulin is a natural hormone produced by the pancreas that acts to stabilize sugar levels in the blood. With type 2 diabetes those levels get too high, and over time this can lead to serious complications and ultimately to kidney failure and death.
It is crucial for people with this condition to control blood sugar and keep levels from getting too high. Diet and exercise, along with losing weight, helps, but for some patients the risks of not controlling blood sugar quickly enough are serious. For this reason doctors may prescribe a drug like Onglyza to complement lifestyle changes. Drugs like Kombiglyze, which have two different diabetes drugs, work even faster to lower blood sugar.
Saxagliptin, the generic drug that is in both Onglyza and Kombiglyze is what is called a DPP-4 inhibitor. It acts to block the action of the DPP-4 enzyme which would normally break down insulin. The result is that the body is flooded with more insulin, and blood sugar levels drop. Kombiglyze also includes the medication metformin, which acts to limit how much sugar is absorbed from food. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) first approved Onglyza in 2009 and Kombiglyze in 2010.
Common Onglyza Side Effects
Being able to control blood sugar levels is crucial for patients with type 2 diabetes because the consequences of having high blood sugar can be severe. Unfortunately, the newer medications that drug companies have rushed to put on the market come with some side effects. Some of these are more serious than others.
Among the most commonly reported Onglyza side effects are upper respiratory infections, including symptoms like a sore throat, coughing, and congestion. Also common are urinary tract infections, headaches, and joint pain. The metformin in Kombiglyze may also cause the same effects so that someone taking this medication may experience them more severely.
Pancreatitis and Pancreatic Cancer
The common side effects of saxagliptin are not generally considered serious and most people can cope with them for the benefits of reduced blood sugar levels. However, since this and other DPP-4 inhibitors have come on the market, research and reports from individuals and their doctors have discovered that much more serious side effects are possible.
One of these is pancreatitis, which is characterized by pain in the abdomen radiating to the back, nausea, vomiting, and worsening pain after eating or being touched in the abdomen. The most dangerous kind of pancreatitis, acute pancreatitis, has been known to occur with saxagliptin. It comes on quickly and only gets worse with time. Without emergency treatment, this condition can be fatal. Signs of pancreatitis must be taken seriously in anyone taking type 2 diabetes medications, including Onglyza.
Another potential side effect is still being studied. The FDA has issued warnings about pancreatitis because the evidence is clear that these medications can cause it. Pancreatic cancer, however, is still being considered as a potential side effect. One study found that the use of saxagliptin leads to new cells in the pancreas, some of which may be cancerous. Another study found pre-cancerous pancreas cells in deceased patients who had been taking DPP-4 inhibitors. The FDA is still weighing the evidence, but it seems that it gets stronger all the time.
The Side Effect of Heart Failure
Congestive heart failure, or just heart failure, is a type of heart disease that occurs when the heart can’t pump well enough. It doesn’t cause sudden death like a heart attack, but eventually is fatal. Drugs like saxagliptin have been shown to have the side effect of increasing edema, or fluid retention. This can contribute to heart failure and make it worse in patients who already have the condition. The FDA issued a warning about this in 2014 and recommended that patients with heart failure should not use Onglyza or Kombiglyze.
Kombiglyze and Lactic Acidosis
Because Kombiglyze contains metformin, in addition to all the saxagliptin side effects, it also has the potential to cause a dangerous condition called lactic acidosis. This happens when dangerous levels of lactic acid build up in the blood and cannot be metabolized quickly enough to reduce it. Signs of lactic acidosis include unexplained nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, a sensation of coldness in the arms and legs, weakness, fatigue, trouble breathing, an irregular heartbeat, and muscle pain.
Anyone taking a medication with metformin should be aware of this potential side effect and seek medical attention if the symptoms are present. Those who drink alcohol are at a greater risk. Having liver damage, kidney damage, an infection, being injected with the dye used for X-rays, and being dehydrated all increase the risk of experiencing this side effect.
Kombiglyze and Onglyza side effects have the potential to be damaging and even to lead to the death of a patient. Many people believe that these newer DPP-4 inhibitor drugs are simply too dangerous and that the drug makers have not been responsible about promoting them without warning patients of the serious risks. If you are among the people who feel this way, you may want to join the many people suing over side effects.