Doctor and Scientist Has Major Concerns about Januvia
Several years ago, drug giant Merck pursued chief of endocrinology Dr. Peter Butler to study its diabetes treatment Januvia. They wanted the support and endorsement of the famous doctor who was once the editor of the American Diabetes Association’s journal Diabetes. For some time the doctor resisted, but finally he gave in and began the requested research and testing. Unfortunately for Merck, Dr. Butler’s findings quickly led him to become a very vocal critic of Januvia and other incretin mimetics.
Questions had already surfaced about these drugs and their link to reports of pancreatitis, but Dr. Butler found something even more disturbing: in the rats that were given the drug, he saw pre-cancerous changes in the pancreas. After he brought this to Merck’s attention, he never heard from them again. This is not surprising, as Januvia and Janumet have yearly global sales of $5.7 billion. As the drug companies have shown time and time again, they want their researchers to support their products, not deliver unexpected and deleterious results.
But Dr. Butler has not gone quietly. He now has the ear of the FDA and the European equivalent, and the FDA is calling for studies into the issue.
Butler points out that the studies that the drug companies rely upon to say that Januvia is safe were performed on young, healthy animals. This is not reflective of the population that is usually taking the drug. Increasing levels of the hormone GLP-1, which is what Januvia does, can accelerate growth of pre-cancerous conditions that are already present in these middle-aged patients.
Also disturbing are the results of the group’s study of the pancreases of deceased humans. Those taking incretin mimetics had more pre-cancerous lesions, and one even had a tumor. The pancreases were heavier than they should have been, with many unusual growths.
Dr. Butler is not the only critic of this class of diabetes treatment. Other independent watchdog groups such as Public Citizen and the Institute for Safe Medication Practices have found the same issues, and Public Citizen has even asked the FDA to take Victoza off the market.
For his part, Dr. Butler is not asking the FDA to remove the drugs from the market. He says that he does not prescribe them to his patients himself, but he only wants a fair and objective study to be done so that we don’t have another drug that causes more harm than good on the market.