Last week, I attended the Second Annual Diabetes Symposium at the Thomas Jefferson University. Surrounded by endocrinologists, nutritionists and diabetes educators, I sat through the lively presentations on new advances and innovations in diabetes. The news was not entirely encouraging — while the artificial pancreas seems on the horizon for type 1’s, the docs seemed somewhat stymied by the obesity problems of their patients, and most of the event centered around medications and what percentage of help old and new ones lent to rising A1C profiles.
But when Dr. Edwin Gale began to talk, my ears perked up; he addressed a topic near to my heart, diabetes and cancer. As a type 2 who has been injecting Byetta and then Bydureon for the larger part of four years, I had become alert to reports associating these drugs with pancreatitis and possible pancreatic cancer. And though Gale noted that diabetes did not seem to be in itself a cancer risk — unlike obesity — he talked about possibilities that these medications did carry certain risks of “subclinical injuries to the pancreas.” That this subclinical inflammation continued after even stopping the drug was further fuel for worry.
Sitting in the audience, already aware of the Hopkins studies, I began to get a little flutter in my stomach. When the presentation ended, I dashed up front to ask Dr. Gale a simple question: If he had a daughter, and she were on these drugs like Byetta and Bydureon, what might he tell her to do?
He didn’t hesitate. “Get off them at once.”
Needless to say, I was worried. So when I returned home, I called my endo. He called right back and we talked it over. He reminded me that these were new drugs, that there haven’t been long term studies and that there is a great deal of disagreement on these issues. But he didn’t really see any harm in my continuing on them. And yet. So we talked some more. And though I have been doing very well on Bydureon, I decided that I was going to take a break.
It wasn’t easy making the decision. I don’t think I’ve ever challenged my doctor’s knowledge before. But for now I’m back on my old routine of Metformin and Amryl, few carbs if any, and lots of exercise. If, by January, my A1C takes a climb, I’ll have to reconsider. Stay tuned.