Pancreatic Cancer Wrongful Death Lawsuit Filed Over Diabetes Drugs

A wrongful death lawsuit has been filed by the family of a California woman, which alleges that their mother developed pancreatic cancer from side effects of the diabetes drugs Byetta, Bydureon, Januvia and Janumet.   

The complaint (PDF) was filed by Robin Tasler in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California last month, indicating that Linda Blaylock died in April 2011 of pancreatic cancer after using the popular diabetes drugs for a number of years.

Byetta, Bydureon, Januvia and Janumet are all members of a class of diabetes drugs known as incretin mimetics, which recent studies have linked to an increased risk of pancreatic cancer and pancreatitis.

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According to the diabetes drug pancreatic cancer lawsuit, Blaylock took Byetta, Bydureon, Januvia and Janumet at various times between 2008 and March 2011. All of the drugs work in a similar fashion, stimulate the production of insulin when blood sugar is rising and stopping the pancreas from releasing too much glucagon.

Tasler alleges that the makers of the diabetes drugs failed to adequately warn doctors or patients about the potential risk of pancreatic cancer. The complaint seeks damages against Merck, Amylin Pharmaceuticals and Eli Lilly and Co. for failure to warn, designing a defective drug, negligence, breach of warranty, negligent misrepresentation and fraudulent concealment.

Diabetes Drug Pancreatic Cancer Lawsuits

Byetta (exenatide) was the first member of this class approved by the FDA, introduced by Amylin Pharmaceuticals and Eli Lilly in 2005 as a twice daily injection. Januvia (sitagliptin) was introduced by Merck the following year as an oral medication, and a combination pill containing Januvia and the older diabetes medication metformin was introduced in 2007 under the brand name Janumet. Bydureon is a longer-acting version of Byetta that is injected once weekly, which was introduced early last year.

The medications are widely used among individuals with type 2 diabetes, generating billions in annual sales. Januvia and Janumet are among the best selling medications for the global pharmaceutical company Merck, with Janumet sales reaching over $1.3 billion in 2011 and Januvia sales hitting $919 million during the first quarter of 2012 alone. Byetta sales were reported at $710 million in 2010 and were expected to reach $1 billion by 2015.

In March, the FDA launched an investigation into the potential pancreatic cancer risk associated with the diabetes drugs. The safety review was initiated after results of a recent study identified pre-cancerous cellular changes in pancreatic tissue taken from individuals treated with incretin mimetics. European health officials have also launched a similar review.

Tasler’s complaint joins a growing number of Byetta lawsuits, Januvia lawsuits and Janumet lawsuits filed in courts throughout the U.S. so far this year.

Last month, a motion was filed with the U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation (JPML) seeking to consolidate and centralize all pancreatic cancer lawsuits involving Byetta, Victoza, Januvia or Janumet. At least 53 cases are currently pending in 7 different U.S. District Courts.

If an MDL is established, Tasler’s wrongful death lawsuit will also be transferred to the same judge for coordinated pretrial proceedings. The U.S. JPML is expected to schedule oral arguments on the motion to be heard during an upcoming hearing session on July 25 in Portland, Maine.


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