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Victoza (liraglutide)

Victoza, a medication used to treat Type 2 diabetes, has been linked to an increased risk of pancreatic cancer. More than 2,500 cases of pancreatic side effects in Victoza users have been reported to the FDA, some of which have been serious.

Doctor hands holding Purple ribbons, Alzheimer disease, EpilepsyVictoza, an injectable incretin mimetic drug which is used to treat type 2 diabetes may cause an increased risk of pancreatic cancer and other serious side effects. Victoza’s manufacturer, Novo Nordisk, has been accused of failing to warn that the medication may cause an increase in the chance for cancer of the pancreas.

Thousands of serious adverse events related to Victoza use have been reported to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Over 2,500 of these reports involved pancreatic events including acute and chronic pancreatitis and pancreatic cancer. Over 700 Victoza pancreatic cancer lawsuits have already been filed against Novo Nordisk and manufacturers of other diabetes drugs including Januvia, Janumet, and Byetta.

About Victoza

Type 2 diabetes occurs when not enough insulin is produced or when cells become resistant to insulin. Insulin is produced by the pancreas and is required to transport glucose from the blood into body cells to be used as energy. If there is not enough insulin being made by the pancreas or if insulin in the body quits working, glucose will not be transported into the cells and will be left in the bloodstream.

Brand Name Victoza
Generic Name liraglutide
Classification Incretin (GLP-1) mimetic antidiabetic
Manufacturer Novo Nordisk
Dosage form(s) 6mg/ml injectable solution in 3ml pre-filled pen syringe for subcutaneous injection
Normal dosage 0.6mg subcutaneous injection daily for 1 week, increase to 1.2mg daily May increase to maximum 1.8mg daily if needed

Victoza, brand name of liraglutide, is an “incretin mimetic” which is used to treat Type 2 diabetes. Incretin mimetics work by affecting receptors for incretins, a group of hormones that stimulate the release of insulin. Victoza mimics one particular incretin, known as Glucagon-like Peptide-1 or GLP-1 which in turn, stimulates insulin production.

Victoza Pancreatic Cancer

Victoza can stimulate insulin production in people who are not making enough insulin but people who use Victoza, must have a functioning pancreas able to produce insulin. This stimulation of insulin production in the pancreas may increase the risk of developing pancreatitis which may be fatal. It may also increase the chance of developing pancreatic cancer.

The American Cancer Society warns that patients with chronic pancreatitis (inflammation of the pancreas) may have an increased risk of developing pancreatic cancer. Other incretin mimetics are also suspected of increasing the risk of both chronic and acute pancreatitis and of pancreatic cancer. According to the FDA’s database, Januvia and Byetta, similar incretin mimetics may result in a 10-fold increase in the risk for pancreatic cancer. Over 2,500 Victoza patients, 2,300 Januvia patients and 3,000 Byetta patients have reported pancreatic side effects to the FDA.

In 2013, researchers were instructed to institute further investigations into the connection between incretin mimetic drugs and pancreatic cancer and patients continue to report serious pancreatic side effects associated with Victoza and similar drugs.

Victoza Lack of Pancreas Safety Warnings

Novo Nordisk, Victoza’s manufacturer was accused of misleading healthcare providers about Victoza’s safety. The company was also alleged to have paid kickbacks to doctors for prescribing Victoza and to have falsely presented salespersons as medical educators.

Novo Nordisk in 2017, settled an improper marketing lawsuit brought by a whistleblower. The company agreed to pay the U.S. Department of Justice $58.7 million in fines and claims. The DOJ agreement included $12.5 million for violations of the FDA Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act, along with $46.5 million for a whistleblower settlement.

The lawsuit followed a 2011 survey which had showed that over half of all physicians who used Victoza in their practices, were unaware of the risk of pancreatic cancer, even though the company already knew.

Victoza Black Box Warning

Though Victoza prescribing information may not contain enough serious warning about the risks of pancreatic cancer, it is subject to a black box warning about another type of cancer. A black box warning is the most serious type of warning that can be issued by the FDA.

Victoza’s black box warning lists an increase risk of thyroid-C tumors in both genders of rats. The warning states that the risk to humans of medullary thyroid carcinoma (MTC) is unknown but that Victoza should not be used in patients with a history of MTC or in patients with Multiple Endocrine Neoplasia syndrome type 2 (MEN-2), another type of cancer.

It further discusses instructions that should be given to patients regarding the development of thyroid tumors including reporting awareness of neck masses, difficulty swallowing, shortness of breath or chronic hoarseness.

Victoza Side Effects

In addition to serious events such as increased risk of thyroid cancer, pancreatitis and pancreatic cancer, Victoza may cause other side effects.

  • Common side effects include:
  • Injection site reaction
  • Nausea and Vomiting
  • Dyspepsia or Heartburn
  • Diarrhea
  • Constipation
  • Headache

Victoza may also increase the risk for renal impairment, may cause hypersensitivity (allergic) reaction, and should be used with caution with other medications which may cause hypoglycemia, including other type 2 diabetes medications.

Victoza Lawsuits

A number of incretin mimetic drugs have been the subject of serious medical injury lawsuits due to pancreatitis, pancreatic cancer and other complications. Manufacturers Merck, Eli Lilly, Amylin and Novo Nordisk are facing hundreds of lawsuits in multidistrict litigation (MDL) cases for incretin mimetics like Januvia, Janumet, Byetta, Onglyza and Victoza.

People who suffered pancreatitis, were diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, or developed other complications should seek legal advice.

Notwithstanding claims relating to this product, the drug/medical device remains approved by the U.S. FDA.


Victoza Prescribing Information, RxList (06/2019)

Cancer questions over popular diabetes drugs raise furor, Philadelphia Inquirer (02/2016)

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