Within the past two decades, thanks in large part to diabetes experts lowering the blood sugar threshold, millions more Americans were labeled as diabetic and became eligible for medication to help regulate blood sugar levels. As a result, the diabetes drug industry boomed. Sales of diabetes drugs topped $23 billion, more than the revenues generated from the National Football League, Major League Baseball, and the National Basketball Association combined.
But in the past decade, a Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and MedPage Today investigation discovered that none of the 30 new diabetes drugs were proven to improve diabetics’ risk for associated health complications such as heart attacks, strokes, or blindness.
The drugs were approved based on their ability to lower blood sugar levels, which the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) labeled as a surrogate measure. It was, essentially, assumed that if blood sugar levels could be in check, so would the associated health complications of type 2 diabetes. Not only was the FDA wrong in this assumption, but millions of Americans were exposed to dangerous side effects including cancer risks.
For example, the type 2 diabetes drug Actos enjoyed blockbuster status until studies linked use of the drug to an increased risk of bladder cancer. Lawsuits quickly resulted, one of which granted one man a $9 billion judgment against drugmakers Takeda Pharmaceuticals and Eli Lilly.
Newer type 2 diabetes drugs haven’t fared much better. Januvia and Byetta were found to cause a painful inflammation of the pancreas known as acute pancreatitis. This condition also increases the risk for pancreatic cancer, one of the most deadly forms of the disease.
Source: Milwaukee Journal Sentinel