Ten deaths possibly linked to a new class of type 2 diabetes drugs is prompting Japanese drug regulators to request manufacturers to add new warnings to the drugs’ labels.
The diabetes drugs, known as sodium-glucose cotransporter 2 (SGLT2) inhibitors, reduce blood sugar levels by eliminating excessive glucose from the body by inhibiting a protein that helps reabsorb sugar in the urine back into the blood. Since April, the Japanese health ministry has approved six SGLT2 inhibitors. Only three are approved in the U.S. – Jardiance (empagliflozin), Invokana (canagliflozin), and Farxiga (dapagliflozin).
SGLT2 inhibitors have been associated with weight loss, which can be a desirable side effect since type 2 diabetes is often caused by obesity. Other side effects include urinary tract infections, genital infections, renal function decline, and dehydration resulting in dizziness and fainting. After-marketing surveys conducted by pharmaceutical companies reported 4,800 adverse events in 3,700 patients using SGLT2 inhibitors, the Asahi Shimbun reported.
One concern with SGLT2 inhibitors is that patients who do not sufficiently hydrate while taking the drugs could become dehydrated, which could trigger strokes.
SGLT2 inhibitors are in a class of type 2 diabetes drugs known as incretin mimetics, which also includes the popular brand names Januvia and Byetta. These drugs have also been associated with an increased risk of a painful inflammation of the pancreas known as acute pancreatitis. They have also been linked to cases of pancreatic cancer.
Source: The Asahi Shimbun