With nearly 350 million people being affected by diabetes, scientists are busy trying to find alternative treatments and medications to replace older diabetes medications to keep up with the rising number of people being diagnosed.
One medication that was developed and approved by the European Medicines Agency (EMA) in 2009, and later approved by the United States Food and Drug Administration (USFDA) in 2010, has recently been put under the spotlight for its cancer concerns.
The drug that is associated with cancer concerns is Victoza. Continue reading to learn more about it, and to discover why it is associated with cancer. The information below will help you better understand what Victoza is prescribed for, and the benefits that it might provide. But, this info will also help shed some light on some of the potential side effects, including those that are serious and severe, that have been associated with the use of this medication.
Keep in mind that the information provided here is a good place to start when it comes to getting to know Victoza better, but if you really want to understand what this drug is all about, and whether or not it is right for you to use it, you need to talk to your doctor for some personalized advice.
What Is Victoza, and How Does It Work?
The drug Liraglutide, marketed under the name Victoza, has been launched in several countries including the US, UK, India, Japan, Germany, Denmark, Ireland, Sweden, Japan, Canada and several others and fills nearly 150,000 prescriptions each month. It was developed by a company by the name of Novo Nordisk to treat individuals with type 2 diabetes.
The drug is injected and reportedly works by mimicking hormones GLP-1, which is responsible for initiating the production of insulin when blood sugars increase to dangerous levels.
It has been proven to:
- Stimulate insulin release when blood glucose levels are heightened
- Lower triglycerides
- Decrease appetite
- Maintain body weight
- Regenerate beta cells
The goal is to take Victoza while also following a healthy diet and a consistent exercise routine so that you can lower blood glucose if you have been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes mellitus. In that case, this medication is appropriate for use in children 10 years of age and older, as well as adults.
It is also worth noting that Victoza may also be prescribed in an effort to help reduce a patient’s risk of suffering from a major cardiovascular event (such as a stroke, a heart attack, or even death). This medication can be used in adults who have been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes and have known heart disease as well.
What Are the Side Effects That Are Associated with Victoza Use?
Some of the mild side effects of Victoza include:
- Upset stomach
- Cold symptoms
Some of the more serious side effects include:
- Swelling or a lump in the throat
- Shortness of breath
- Irregular heartbeat
- Signs of infection
It is recommended that people experiencing any of the serious side effects seek emergency medical attention.
The Connection Between Increased Cancer Risk and Victoza
After a panel review conducted by the FDA found a significant amount of laboratory cases involving mice and rats showing an increase in malignant or cancerous cells, consumer advocacy groups have taken action to have Victoza removed from the market.
Novo Nordisk did not deny the fact that the laboratory experiments were yielding such results, but did state that it is unclear as to whether or not the results were consistent with human subjects.
Consumer groups are stating that Victoza places people at risk for thyroid cancer, kidney failure, and that there have been thousands of reported cases of pancreatitis. It is believed that Victoza blocks the passage of digestive enzymes by overproducing pancreatic duct cells which causes the pancreas to become inflamed and can become fatal if left untreated. It also puts people at severe risk for pancreatic cancer.
What the Manufacturer Has to Say About Victoza and Cancer Risk
The manufacturer of Victoza shares quite a bit of information on its safety. And, the manufacturer does warn that there is the potential for the development of thyroid tumors and cancer. If you are given this prescription medication, and you end up experiencing a swelling or lump in your neck, or if you have trouble swallowing, shortness of breath, or hoarseness, be sure to let your doctor know right away. All of those side effects might actually be symptoms of thyroid cancer, so take them extremely seriously, and don’t fail to let your physician know about what you are experiencing.
Beyond that, the manufacturer even admits that research involving mice and rats has found that Victoza, as well as medications that work like it, can cause serious side effects. Studies have shown that thyroid tumors and thyroid cancer can be caused by this medicine. However, what they do not yet know is if this prescription will result in medullary thyroid carcinoma, which is also referred to as MTC, in humans.
What about other types of cancer? Is there a possibility that Victoza could cause even more harm than what has already been discussed above? Well, there hasn’t been enough scientific proof that over time Victoza does definitely cause cancer, but then again, Victoza has only been on the market for a few years, so there is little data available for long-term consequences of this drug. If you are currently taking Victoza, or plan on taking it, please offer your feedback.
Another Potential Problem: Gallbladder and Biliary Tract Events
In addition to a potential increase in the risk of certain cancers, there are some other things to worry about when contemplating whether or not Victoza is a safe prescription to take.
According to Medical Xpress, there is something else to consider before you decide to say yes to Victoza: it might be associated with an increased risk of gallbladder and biliary tract events, particularly in patients who have been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. Experts discovered this increased risk when comparing what patients experience while using Victoza versus while taking a placebo.
Basically, a study involved more than 9,000 people with type 2 diabetes who were at a high risk of experiencing a cardiovascular event. They were given either a placebo or Victoza. Then, when the patients were done using the prescription, the experts analyzed their findings to see if any gallbladder and biliary tract related events had occurred as a result of the use of Victoza.
What did the researchers discover at the end of this study? Well, they did see that there was a greater risk that patients would have acute gallbladder or biliary disease when they were given Victoza. They even recognized similar findings when it came to four different categories of events, including complicated gallbladder stones, biliary obstruction, uncomplicated gallbladder stones, and cholecystitis with or without gallbladder stones. And, in those patients who were given Victoza, cholecystectomy was needed more often.
Ultimately, this is something to keep in mind, and it is wise to talk to your doctor about these risks as well. However, more studies and more research will be needed to really understand how Victoza can impact this part of the body.
Talk to Your Doctor About the Pros and Cons of Victoza
Between the list of side effects and the cancer concerns that are associated with Victoza, it is clear that this is a medication that needs to be prescribed with caution, as well as used with caution.
Talk to your doctor about the pros and cons of this medication before opting to try it. Weigh your options, see if it is really necessary to use it, ask your doctor about alternatives, and then decide.
If you and your doctor do conclude that it is best for you to give this product a try, you might find that Victoza does not cause any side effects. However, if you do end up experiencing any side effects, even if they are mild, be sure to let your doctor know so that he or she can tell you how to proceed.
It’s a lot to think about when it comes to Victoza and the concerns surrounding its side effects, including cancer. But, if you are prescribed this medication, your doctor has decided that the benefits outweigh any potential risks, so just be sure to take it as directed, and be mindful of how you feel while you are using this medication.