The FDA has approved Victoza (liraglutide) a daily injection treatment for type-2 diabetes. Combined with diet, exercise, and potentially with other diabetes medicines, Victoza intends to lower blood sugar levels. It is meant as a supplemental medication, to assist patients already doing fairly well with diet and other measures. Some studies show that it might work better than Byetta.
Type-2 diabetes affects the body’s ability to make and use insulin, a hormone that processes blood sugar. Victoza (like many other Type-2 Diabetes medications) boosts the body’s ability to make insulin.
Victoza has potential side effects, the most dramatic of which is “tumor creation.” Clinical trials of Victoza showed a tendency toward pancreas inflammation in users. For this reason, officials state that the presence of severe abdominal pain, which may or may not be accompanied by vomiting and/or nausea, should be investigated by a medical profession. In the event of severe abdominal pain, users should stop taking Victoza and be checked for pancreatitis. Patients with a history of pancreatitis should use Victoza with caution. Other noted Victoza side effects include nausea, diarrhea, headache, and allergic-type reactions such as hives.
Risk of Cancer
The potential side effect of “tumor creation” is striking and alarming for many. Animal studies have shown that Victoza causes tumors—some of which were cancerous—in the thyroid glands of mice and rats. Excessive doses (far greater than human doses) significantly increased the chance of tumors. The makers of Victoza will conduct long-term epidemiological studies to evaluate the risk of various cancers in users over the next 15 years.
It is not known if Victoza could cause thyroid tumors or a very rare type of thyroid cancer called medullary thyroid cancer in people. For this reason, Victoza should not be used as the first-line treatment for diabetes until additional studies are completed that support expanded use, the agency said.
To ensure the safe and effective use of this product, Victoza was approved with a Risk Evaluation and Mitigation Strategy consisting of a Medication Guide and a Communication Plan to help patients and providers understand the risks of Victoza and to ensure that the benefits of the drug outweigh the risk of acute pancreatitis and the potential risk of medullary thyroid cancer.
It is currently not known whether Victoza can cause thyroid tumors and/or thyroid cancer in humans. Research will continue to attempt to assess these risks, but because of the ambiguity of risk as present, Victoza should not be used as a first-line treatment. The drug will come with a guide explaining its proper use and the applicable risks.