Isn’t it amazing that seemingly every other TV commercial urges you to:
“If you or a loved one have suffered losses in this case, please click the link below and your complaint will be sent to a drugs & medical lawyer who may evaluate your Januvia/Byetta/Victoza/put another drug from the incretin category here claim at no cost or obligation.” ? This shameless campaign of constantly frightening patients with chronic diseases like diabetes seems to have no end. And, how quickly malpractice lawyers forgot that patients just last year were supposed to sue the Lantus maker for cancers and the Actos maker for bladder cancer (those claims have not panned out). There is always another scary drug du jour. And, isn’t amazing you never see ads asking you to sue makers of generic drugs like sulfonylureas (which send thousands of patients each year to emergency rooms because of low sugar reactions)? Surely it must be a coincidence that only brand name drugs are risky, right?
Hopefully, some sanity is returning. In 2012 the estimated cost of diabetes in US alone was $245 billion; not surprisingly, most of that cost was for taking care of late complications of poorly treated and controlled diabetes. Today, one-third of the TOTAL Medicare budget is spent on diabetes. This burden would be greatly decreased if we focused on taking care of patients early before they develop the complications. Every medication can have side effects in a small proportion of patients. But, we don’t have the luxury of either not treating diabetes or waiting for the miracle drug or cure. The decision about whether and which medication to take should rest solely on the individual patient and his/her physician, weighing all the risks and benefits and making an informed and mutually acceptable decision. Insurance company executives, government officials or malpractice lawyers don’t have the patients’ well being as their priority and their pronouncements should be looked at accordingly.
So, where do we stand now with those “bad” drugs? A June 2013 National Institutes of Health workshop reviewed associations between diabetes and pancreatic carcinoma and it showed increased risk of cancer associated with diabetes as such and independent of therapy with no added risk by the incretin-class of drugs. The FDA presented a thorough review and found no concerns for pancreatic disease. The American Diabetes Association, the European Association for the Study of Diabetes, and the International Diabetes Federation stated that at this time, there is insufficient information to modify current treatment recommendations. No patient should discontinue medication without first consulting with their health care provider.
On July 26, 2013 The European Medicines Agency has finalized its review of GLP-1 agonist therapies. The committee concluded that current data do not confirm concerns regarding an increased risk of adverse pancreatic events with GLP-1 agonists. A couple of days later FDA “concurred” with the European conclusions.
One would think that these few examples of statements by independent experts (not drug companies) should get as much publicity and hopefully more credibility than the next “1-800-BAD-DRUG” TV ad.