Using Januvia May Lead to Pancreatitis

An Ohio woman has filed a lawsuit against Merck & Co., Inc. (Merck), the manufacturer of the blockbuster drug Januvia. The lawsuit was brought on behalf of the plaintiff’s late spouse who was prescribed the drug as part of treatment for Type-2 diabetes. Nancy Fenter, the plaintiff, alleges that Januvia caused her late-husband (Ronald) to develop pancreatic cancer which proximately caused his untimely death. According to the complaint, Merck was negligent in the design, development, manufacturing, marketing, and distribution of Januvia. The case is currently pending in federal court.

Januvia (sitagliptin) is a medicine prescribed to control blood sugar levels for individuals diagnosed with Type-2 Diabetes, the most common form of the disease. Taken once a day in pill form, it works to lower blood sugar levels by increasing the levels of insulin the body produces and by decreasing the amount of sugar made in the liver. Effective management of diabetes also lowers the risk of heart disease and stroke, and is also prescribed to control high blood pressure.

Pointing to the findings published by the American Gastroenterological Association in February 2011, the complaint notes a correlation between pancreatitis and pancreatic cancer, and that Januvia usage causes a six-fold increase in the risk for pancreatitis.

Pancreatitis is an inflammation of the pancreas, a body organ that aids in food digestion by releasing enzymes into the small intestine and producing insulin to facilitate the absorption of glucose. Symptoms include upper abdominal pain, swollen and tender abdomen, nausea and vomiting, fever, and increased heart rate.

The complaint asserts that Merck knew of the risks of pancreatitis when using the drug, but sought to downplay the risks by attributing the risk to Type-2 diabetes alone. The complaint further alleges that the FDA ordered additional testing, but Merck failed to submit a final study report. This prompted a warning letter from the FDA stating effectively that Januvia is “considered misbranded” and that the company failed to show good cause of not conducting additional testing on the risks of using Januvia, specifically “a serious risk of acute pancreatitis.”

The Journal Sentinel and MedPage Today, a consumer watchdog group analyzed case reports from 2004 through March 2014. Strikingly, they found diabetes drugs were the primary suspects for about 3,300 deaths and 20,000 hospitalizations. They then examined 30 diabetes drugs approved by the FDA 2004-2013. Januvia was found to be among the top three most deadly diabetes drugs. In fact, out of the three drugs found to have the most complications from side effects, Januvia tallied the most deaths at 964 reported deaths.

Recently, Ann Falcone of Staten Island, New York filed suit against Merck & Co., Inc., claiming that she developed pancreatic cancer while using Januvia as one of the two drugs prescribed for treatment of her Type-2 diabetes. This case is the latest in a string of mounting cases surrounding the drug as more consumers become aware of the grave risks associated with Januvia.

If you have used Januvia and developed pancreatitis or pancreatic cancer, you may be entitled to compensation for your injuries. Call 800-977-5614 to speak to a Jacoby & Meyers attorney today.

Zachary Mayberry, student intern Jacoby & Meyers, LLC.