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Tuesday 2 July 2013

Diabetes. Are patients better with, or without these conventional drugs?

Anyone suffering from Diabetes, and in Britain, about 2.5 million people do, must be wondering whether they are better off with, or without the drugs they are prescribed by their NHS doctor. 

A Channel 4 Dispatches programme, broadcast on 10th June 2013 set the scene. It linked certain diabetes drugs (it mentioned Januvia, Victoza and Byetta) with Pancreatitis and Pancreatic cancer. Despite these concerns, the programme said that the Big Pharma drug companies were

     (i) refusing to release data they had gathered on the drugs,
     (ii) but they were interested in using the drugs for the growing problem of Obesity.

This is quite typical of what is happening in the Conventional Medical world. On the one hand, a complete lack of transparency when it comes to responding to concern about serious adverse reactions to drugs. But, on the other hand, a desire to use drugs in other, more lucrative areas of ill-health.

In both cases, the patient appears to be the last to be considered.

As always, when discussing the disease-inducing-effects (DIEs) of pharmaceutical drugs, a question is posed by the conventional medical establishment. Do the benefits of the drugs (in this case, for the treatment of Diabetes) outweigh the risk (in taking drugs that cause Pancreatitis and/or Pancreatic cancer).

One of the drugs concerned, Januvia, has apparently been found to double the risk of developing acute pancreatitis. This was the result of a study, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), in February 2013. The study found that in most cases, hospital admission for pancreatitis happened within the first 60 days of patients taking Januvia.

The makers of Januvia, Merck, have long rejected any link between Januvia and pancreatitis!

The link with pancreatic cancer is even more serious, as it is a disease that kills 80% of people within the first year of diagnosis. There is research, published in 2011, indicating that Januvia could increase the risk of of pancreatic cancer (by 172%) and thyroid cancer too (by 48%).

Equally, what cannot be denied is that Januvia is a money-spinner, one of Mercks best-selling drugs, earning an estimated $4.1 billion in 2012.

So what are the drug regulators doing? Not, it would seem, very much. The FDA announced in March 2013 that 'it will investigate' the risks associated with Januvia. Yet, in the meantime, there is little evidence that any move has been made to inform patients, or that there is much concern about those people who might contract pancreatitis, or pancreatic cancer, during the time it takes to investigate the drug. Not much urgency there, it would seem!

Yet this cannot be considered to be a new linkage. As Agora Health stated in their 'Daily Health eAlert  (June 2013), the FDA were aware of the dangers of Januvia as early as 2006, as between October 2006 and February 2009, the FDA received reports of 88 cases that linked this drug with pancreatitis.

It would seem that being diabetic, not an easy one at the best of times, is being made far worse by the drugs the Conventional Medical Establishment gets them to take.

Victoza, another diabetes drug, was introduce in 2012. Even at the testing stage, animal studies indicated that it cause thyroid tumours, and human studies indicated that it caused pancreatitis. So why was it approved? Only the drug regulators know. But despite the evidence, the drug was uncompromisingly heralded as a 'breakthrough' in the treatment of type-2 diabetes! Other drugs, of the same type, are called Byetta, Exenatide, Liraglutide - and of course, Januvia.

Dispatches reported that the British Medical Journal (BMJ) had looked at all the evidence concerning this drugs, and had concluded that the manufacturers (including Merck, Novo Nordisk and Amylin Pharmaceuticals) may have been trying to hide the potential harmful reactions the caused. Dr. Deborah Cohen, from BMJ, is reported saying that whilst the evidence of the trial "may seem inconclusive",

          "When considered alongside other emerging and long-standing evidence, a worrying picture emerges, posing serious questions about the safety of this class of drug".

So, are diabetes patients better off with these drugs, or without them?

Remember the diabetes drug, Avandia? Some people dubbed it as 'the killer drug' - although it must be said that Avandia has many rivals to this claim! Recall that it was banned throughout Europe in September 2010, as it was found to significantly increase the risk of heart attacks? Yet Avandia was marketed from 2000, and for 10 years it was allowed to cause heart attacks and strokes - whilst it was being 'investigated' by the drug regulators.

Will it take as long for these 'new' drugs to be banned? Will the drug regulators allow pharmaceutical companies to profit from drugs that are causing death whilst they 'investigate' the problems? How long will it take before the needs of patients come before the profits of drug companies?

One thing that every diabetes sufferer can do is to challenge their doctor, challenge the NHS, challenge the Department of Health, challenge their MP - and demand safer medicine. We all need to ask the question. Is the need to treat diabetes worth risk of getting acute pancreatitis, and pancreatic cancer? Do the benefits of these drugs really outweigh the risks?