The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has received 30 reports so far of patients developing acute pancreatitis which could be linked to taking the Diabetes Type 2 drug Byetta. Acute pancreatitis is inflammation of the pancreas – none of the cases has been fatal, 21 have been hospitalized.

The FDA is advising anybody who is taking Byetta and experiences severe abdominal pain, with nausea/vomiting or without, to contact their health care professional immediately. The FDA is also advising doctors to stop giving Byetta to patients who are thought to have acute pancreatitis, and not resume treatment with said drug if they cannot find another cause for their acute pancreatitis.

Nobody can be certain at this point whether or not Byetta has caused the thirty cases. People with gallstones, those who consume alcohol, and patients with very high levels of triglycerides (hypertriglyceridemia) have a higher risk of developing acute pancreatitis – 27 of the twenty patients who became ill had at least one of those risk factors.

After stopping taking Byetta 22 of the patients got better, while three of them had acute pancreatitis symptoms again after being put back on the drug.

Amylin Pharmaceuticals, the makers of Byetta, has announced that the company will include precautionary information on acute pancreatitis risk in the labeling of the medication.

What is Acute Pancreatitis?

It is a rapidly-onset inflammation of the pancreas. Depending on how severe it is, complications can be serious and mortality may be high. Severe cases require invasive surgery while mild cases can be treated with conservative measures or laparoscopy.

Causes of Acute Pancreatitis

— often the causes are unknown (idiopathic)
— gallstone
— alcohol (chronic alcoholism)
— steroids
— mumps
— some viruses, such as Epstein-Barr Virus
— trauma
— autoimmune diseases, such as lupus
— snake bite, scorpion sting
— when the body temperature falls too low (hypothermia)
— when lipid (fats) blood levels are too high (hyperlipidemia)

Written by: Christian Nordqvist