The law firm of Rheingold, Giuffra, Ruffo & Plotkin LLP has just commenced what is believed to be the first suit in New York for the development of pancreatic cancer in the user of three common anti-diabetic drugs: Byetta, Januvia and Janumet. The suit, by Staten Island resident Robert Cataletto, was filed on June 14, 2013, and it is captioned Cataletto v. Amylin Pharmaceuticals, LLC, et al., E.D.N.Y. 13-cv-3411.
Mr. Cataletto received prescriptions from the doctor attending to his adult diabetes condition in the period from 2009 to 2012 for Byetta, Januvia and Janumet. Byetta, manufactured by Merck, Inc., has been on the market since 2005 and is known as a glucagen-like peptide. It treats diabetes by preventing a build-up of sugar in the body.
Januvia is made by Amylin Pharmaceuticals LLC, a company recently bought by Bristol Myers Squibb Co. First marketed in 2007, it is in the category of a dipeptidyl-peptidase-4 drug, which also reduces blood glucose levels. When combined with an older drug, metformin, the drug is known as Janumet. The broader category for the drugs involved in this law suit is known as "incretins."
The complaint which was just filed alleges that the manufacturers of these products were alerted starting in 2010 that there was an increased incidence of pancreatic cancer in users of these drugs as compared to diabetics treated with the older, more proven forms of treatment. The notice also came from the German Medical Association and a petition by Public Citizen, a non-profit health group in Washington.
There have been similar reports of a sharp increase in pancreatitis-inflammation of the pancreas gland-in users of these same drugs. The complaint alleges that pancreatitis may be a forerunner of pancreatic cancer. Pancreatic cancer is among the deadliest of all cancers, for which there are no satisfactory treatments.
The complaint charges that the defendants were aware of the serious health risks associated with the use of these drugs and concealed them from the public, prescribing doctors and governmental regulatory bodies. It not only seeks damages for the pain and suffering and economic loss sustained by the Cataletto family but also punitive or punishment damages based on "disregard for human life."
"From our examination of the data, it appears to us that there has been over promotion and under warning by the sellers of these and other drugs in the incretin category," says Paul D. Rheingold, senior partner in the law firm. The firm specializes in representing persons injured by drugs and medical devices. It is currently heavily involved with litigation involving metal-on-metal hips made by Biomet, DePuy, Stryker and Wright Medical, all of which have genotoxic galvanic reactions known to be carcinogenic.
Attention is also being directed now to other drugs in the incretin category, including Victorza and Onglyza. The manufacturers of all of these drugs announced in mid-June that they would cooperate with the Food and Drug Administration and the American Diabetes Association in studying the potential link between use of incretins and the development of pancreatic cancer.