Victoza is a non-insulin medicine that helps improve blood-sugar levels. Each injection “pen” contains liraglutide, a drug that forces the pancreas to make more insulin.
Experts are concerned Victoza could over-stimulate the pancreas and cause inflammation or cancer. The FDA has already issued warnings about the risk of pancreatitis and pre-cancerous pancreatic tumors.
In 2008, the FDA asked all diabetes drug-makers to investigate cardiovascular risks from new drugs. The results of the LEADER clinical trial were published on June 13 in the New England Journal of Medicine.
The good news is that Victoza reduced the risk of heart attack, stroke, and death by 13%.
The bad news is that 15 patients on Victoza developed pancreatic cancer, compared to 5 patients on a placebo, out of roughly 4,670 patients in each group.
The risk of pancreatic cancer was not statistically significant, but the study only tracked patients for 3.5 to 5 years. Pancreatic cancer develops very slowly in its early stages. It can take decades to become fatal.
Pancreatic cancer is rare, but it is one of the deadliest cancers. Very few people experience symptoms in its early, treatable stages. By the time they are diagnosed, it is usually because tumors have spread to nearby organs.
Approximately 800 federal lawsuits have been filed by people who developed pancreatitis or pancreatic cancer after taking Victoza and other diabetes drugs. These cases are centralized in California in MDL No. 2452, In Re: Incretin Mimetics Products Liability Litigation.
Source: New England Journal of Medicine