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Januvia Pancreatitis

Recent studies have found a link between the type 2 diabetes drug Januvia (generic: sitagliptin) and an increased risk for pancreatitis, a severe medical condition in which the pancreas becomes inflamed.

and pancreatitis. Pancreatitis occurs when the pancreas becomes severely inflamed, and can lead to pancreatic cancer if left untreated.

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Pancreatitis Overview

The pancreas is a gland that regulates digestion and metabolism processes. These essential bodily functions may be severely affected by pancreatitis, a rare disease that occurs when normally inactive pancreatic enzymes become active within the gland and attack the pancreas itself. Pancreatitis can be acute – appearing rapidly and lasting for just a few days – or it can be chronic, developing slowly and persisting over months or years.

How Can Januvia Cause Pancreatitis?

Pancreatitis occurs when digestive enzymes become activated while still inside the pancreas. Normally, pancreatic enzymes remain inert until they travel to the small intestine, where they become active and help with digestion processes. However, in people with pancreatitis, the enzymes become activated while still in the pancreas, causing severe inflammation, abdominal pain, vomiting, fever, high blood pressure, and / or respiratory problems. Repeated bouts of pancreatitis can lead to chronic pancreatitis, where scar tissue forms and causes loss of function. A poorly functioning pancreas can cause digestion problems, diabetes, and even cause pancreatic cancer.

Acute Hemorrhagic Pancreatitis

Hemorrhagic pancreatitis is a severe medical condition characterized by a sudden inflammation of the pancreas that occurs over a short period of time. During an episode of acute hemorrhagic pancreatitis, the patient may experience confusion, difficulty breathing, respiratory failure, and other symptoms relating to digestion and the abdomen. In severe cases of the disease, the patient may fall into a coma. Symptoms of acute hemorrhagic pancreatitis may include:

  • Upper abdominal pain that radiates into the back
  • Swollen and tender abdomen
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Fever
  • Increased heart rate

Necrotizing Pancreatitis

Necrotizing pancreatitis occurs when a patient’s pancreas is inflamed and bleeding. In patients with necrotizing pancreatitis, the pancreas destroys itself, which is accompanied by severe inflammation and tissue death. This form of pancreatitis is extremely serious and should be treated immediately.

Pancreatitis Symptoms

Pancreatitis brings about changes in the way a person’s body behaves. The condition causes symptoms which vary greatly from patient to patient, and individuals diagnosed with pancreatitis should keep a close watch on anything they feel or notice differently. Common symptoms of pancreatitis may include:

  • Upper abdominal pain – Constant burning sensation that comes and goes in regular intervals. Each time it returns, the pain becomes increasingly worse.
  • Abdominal pain that radiates to the back – Pain that travels to the back into the kidneys and spinal cord, causing a crippling feeling. In severe cases, abdominal pain caused by pancreatitis can lead the patient to faint, lose consciousness, or go into a coma.
  • Vomiting – Even if a patient with pancreatitis has a normal appetite, he or she may vomit regularly. These episodes typically begin with nausea, then a gurgling in the stomach, then the urge to vomit. Vomiting caused by pancreatitis usually lasts until the patient’s stomach is completely empty.
  • Fever – Symptom that occurs when the patient’s body tries to fight back against the disease.
  • Blood pressure – Patients suffering from pancreatitis may experience a dramatic rise in blood pressure, a condition which can require immediate medical intervention. Alternately, if internal bleeding occurs or if excessive fluid is built up, the patient may suffer a rapid drop in blood pressure.
  • Heart / respiratory symptoms – In individuals with pancreatitis, the heart may pump blood rapidly to fix the condition, which leads to fast breathing and other respiratory symptoms.

Less severe symptoms of pancreatitis may include:

  • Tenderness when touching the abdomen
  • Indigestion
  • Oily, smelly stools (steatorrhea)
  • Weight loss
  • Increased urination
  • Greater food cravings

What Treatments and Drugs are Used for Pancreatitis?

Patients diagnosed with pancreatitis are typically admitted to a hospital for medical care. Treatment is aimed at controlling inflammation in the pancreas, and to make the patient comfortable (palliative care). Pancreatitis treatments involve a combination of:

  • Fasting – Patients admitted for pancreatitis are usually advised to avoid eating for several days to allow their pancreas to recover. Once the inflammation goes away, the patient may begin consuming clear liquids and bland food.
  • Prescription drugs – Pain medications may be prescribed to individuals suffering from severe pain caused by pancreatitis.
  • Intravenous fluids – As the body requires a lot of fluid to repair the pancreas, the patient may become severely dehydrated. To avoid dehydration, patients with pancreatitis may receive additional intravenous fluids.

Once the pancreas inflammation has been reduced, the underlying cause of pancreatitis can be addressed. First and foremost, the doctor is likely to recommend discontinuing the patient’s regimen of Januvia in favor of another drug with fewer potential side effects. Other treatment methods may include:

  • Bile duct obstruction removal – In patients whose pancreatitis is caused by obstructed bile ducts, an endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography (ERCP) may be used. This procedure utilizes a long tube with a camera on the end to view the pancreas and bile ducts, which can help in diagnosing problems and making repairs.
  • Gallbladder removal – In cases where the disease is caused by gallstones, gallbladder surgery (cholecystectomy) may be performed to remove the gallbladder.
  • Pancreas surgery – Used to drain fluid or remove necrotized pancreas tissue.
  • Enzyme supplements – Can help the body digest and process nutrients in foodstuffs.
  • Dietary changes – Patients may be referred to a professional dietitian who can help them plan appropriate meals to accommodate their nutritional requirements.

Januvia Side Effects

In addition to pancreatitis, Januvia has been linked to the following serious side effects:

Other, less severe side effects have been reported to include:

  • Nausea
  • Hypoglycemia
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Headache
  • Nervousness
  • Stomach discomfort

Tests & Diagnosis

The following tests and diagnostic procedures may be performed on patients suffering from unusual symptoms:

  • Blood tests – Help identify elevated enzyme levels in the pancreas.
  • Stool tests – Analyze levels of fat in the patient’s waste which could be an indicator that the digestive system isn’t processing foods efficiently.
  • Computerized tomography (CT) scan – Test that helps find gallstones and determine the extent of damage to the pancreas.
  • Abdominal ultrasound – To asses whether or not the pancreas is inflamed.
  • Endoscopic ultrasound – Identifies pancreatic and bile duct inflammation and blockages.
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) – Looks for issues with the gallbladder, pancreas, and bile ducts.

Pancreatitis Complications

  • Breathing problems – Pancreatitis influences chemical changes in the body that affect lung function, causing oxygen levels in the blood to drop drastically.
  • Diabetes – Disease that affects the way the human body uses blood sugar. Januvia has been found to cause diabetes by damaging insulin-producing cells in the pancreas.
  • Infections – Patients with pancreatitis are extremely vulnerable to bacterial infections of the pancreas. Pancreatic infections are adverse complications that require immediate medical attention.
  • Kidney failure – Untreated pancreatitis can lead to kidney failure, which occurs when the kidneys are no longer able to remove waste and balance fluids in the body. Kidney failure can be treated with dialysis if the condition is chronic and severe.
  • Malnutrition – Individuals with pancreatitis have fewer of the enzymes needed to digest foodstuffs. This can lead to malnutrition, diarrhea, and weight loss, even though the patient’s eating habits may be normal.
  • Pancreatic cancer – Pancreatitis can lead to pancreatic cancer if the patient’s pancreas remains inflamed for a prolonged period of time.
  • Pseudocyst – Complication caused by fluid and debris building up in the pancreas. Pseudocysts can cause internal bleeding and infections.

Do I Have a Januvia Lawsuit?

The Pharmaceutical Litigation Group at our law firm is an experienced team of trial lawyers that focus on the representation of plaintiffs in Januvia lawsuits. We are handling individual litigation nationwide and currently accepting new injury and death cases in all 50 states.

Again, if you were injured by Januvia side effects, you should contact our law firm immediately. You may be entitled to a settlement by filing a class action suit and we can help.

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