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Consumer Group to FDA: Take Victoza off the Market

Consumer Watchdog Group 'Public Citizen' Challenges Safety of Popular Type 2 Diabetes Drug
WebMD Health News

April 20, 2012 -- Public Citizen, the Washington, D.C.-based consumer advocacy group, is petitioning the FDA to immediately remove the type 2 diabetes drug Victoza (liraglutide) from the market. The petition claims that the injectable medication puts patients at risk of thyroid cancer, pancreatitis, serious allergic reactions, and kidney failure.

"More and more people are taking this drug, and more people are experiencing serious health problems as a result," Public Citizen director Sidney Wolfe, MD, said in a statement. "Clearly, the FDA's warning system is not sufficient. The drug should be taken off the market."

Novo Nordisk, the drug's manufacturer, strongly disputes Public Citizen's statement.

Victoza's Safety Profile

The drug's label currently warns patients and doctors that Victoza caused thyroid tumors and cancer in animal studies involving rats and mice. The label then states that it is unknown whether people taking the drug are at similar risk of such tumors and cancer, which can be fatal if not caught and treated early. It advises patients with a family history of such disease to avoid the drug and warns patients to see a doctor if suspicious lumps or other symptoms occur while taking the medication.

Pancreatitis, a severe and sometimes fatal inflammation of the pancreas, is also a possible side effect of Victoza. According to Public Citizen, patients taking Victoza were nearly four times as likely to be diagnosed with acute pancreatitis than patients taking other diabetes drugs. In the 17 months following the drug's 2010 approval, 200 patients reported having acute pancreatitis. Public Citizen believes that the real number of cases may be much higher.

"Because only an estimated 10% of cases are reported, potentially as many as 2,000 patients or more have suffered a painful and serious outcome as a result of taking Victoza," according to the statement from Public Citizen.

Victoza, which patients inject once a day, is one of a class of drugs that works by mimicking the hormone GLP-1. GLP-1 triggers the production of insulin when blood sugar levels rise too high. It is not a "first choice" medication, and doctors are advised to prescribe it only after other medications prove ineffective.

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