JAMA: New diabetes drugs may double the risk of pancreatitis

The class of diabetes medications known as GLP-1 agonists—which include Exenatide (Byetta, Bydureon) and Liraglutide (Victoza)—may significantly increase pancreatic inflammation compared to other diabetes drugs, according to a study in the Journal of the American Medical Association Internal Medicine.

Researchers at Johns Hopkins University studied 2,538 patients with Type 2 diabetes, with a mean age of 52. Half the participants took the GLP-1 drugs and the other half took other types of blood-glucose-lowering medication. Those who took the GLP-1 medications were twice as likely to develop acute pancreatitis and require hospitalization within 60 days of beginning the medication course.

Researchers noted that the side effects of the GLP-1 drugs were observed in the initial drug testing using animals and were reported to the Food and Drug Administration. Unfortunately, some effects on humans are not discernable until after a drug has been approved in is widespread use, said study leader Sonal Singh, MD, MPH, in a Johns Hopkins Medical School news release

Acute pancreatitis is often complicated by dehydration and infection. Any elder resident with pancreatitis symptoms should also be checked for gall stones, notes the National Institutes of Health.

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