The diabetes drug Januvia (sitagliptin), manufactured by Merck & Co , was approved by the FDA on October 17, 2006. On April 2, 2007, the FDA approved an oral combination of sitagliptin and metformin known as Janumet. On October 7, 2011, the FDA approved an oral combination of sitagliptin and simvastatin marketed in the US as Juvisync (discontinued September 2013).  Januvia is a blockbuster drug for Merck, generating about $4.1 billion in 2012. It’s sister combo drug Janumet, brought in another $1.65 billion.

Januvia belongs to a class of drugs called incretin mimetics. Other drugs in the class include Byetta, Janumet, and Victoza. Incretin mimetics are injection drugs used to treat people who have type 2 diabetes and who have been unable to control blood sugar levels with oral medicines. The drugs prevent the pancrease from giving out too much glucagon, and prompt the pancreas to increase insulin when blood sugar increases. Because the drug slows the rate that the stomach empties after eating, some people feel less hungry and more satisfied after eating, causing weight loss.

In 2013 the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) said that patients taking Januvia or Byetta were twice as likely to get pancreatitis. Merck claims they have thoroughly reviewed preclinical, clinical and post-marketing safety data and found “no compelling evidence of a causal relationship between” the active ingredient in Januvia and pancreatitis or pancreatic cancer.

Although pancreatic cancer survival rates have been improving over the past decades, the disease is still considered largely incurable. According to pancreatic.org, the one-year survival rate of pancreatic cancer (for all states combined) is 20%, and the five year-rate is 6%. In more than 80% of cases, by the time pancreatic cancer is diagnosed, the cancer has spread to the point surgical removal is impossible.  In cases where resection surgery can be performed, the average survival rate is 18 to 20 months.

More than 400 diabetes drug cancer lawsuits have been filed in the multi district litigation (MDL) over Januvia, Janumet, Byetta and Victoza. The lawsuits are in the MDL In re: Incretin Mimetics Products Liability Litigation that is being presided over by U.S. District Judge Anthony Battaglia in California.

According to the latest information available, Bellwether trials will likely begin starting with two Byetta trials in late November 2015 and February 2016, to be followed by trial beginning in October 2016 involving Januvia, with trials involving either Januvia or Janumet set for January 2017 and July 2017. Victoza trials would begin in April 2017 and October 2017. Trial dates are subject to change. If you have been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer or lost a loved one to the disease and would like more information about your rights in a potential diabetes cancer lawsuit, contact Estey Bomberger today for a free consultation.