Husband Sues Drug Companies Over Wife’s Pancreatic Cancer Death

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byetta_pancreatic_cancer_lawsuitsDan Koffman, of Camano Island, Washington, has filed a federal wrongful death civil lawsuit against two drug companies. The suit alleges that the diabetes drug Byetta caused the pancreatic cancer that killed his wife.

Sandy Koffman, who was mayor of Pacific Grove, California from 1994 until 2002, died in August 2012, at age 60. She took Byetta to control her Type 2 diabetes, her husband said. The lawsuit alleges the drug companies were aware of the dangers of the drug but failed to warn doctors and patients, the Monterey Herald reports.

Sandy Koffman took Byetta to control blood sugar levels, from about November 2007 until August 2011 and was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer around March 2012, the lawsuit states. The lawsuit says she underwent “16 different procedures within a couple of weeks (of diagnosis) in an attempt to stabilize her and her digestive system.”  Her husband says she was in excruciating pain.

Byetta is an incretin mimetic diabetes drug. Its action mimics the GLP-1 hormone (glucagon-like peptide-1), which stimulates insulin production. These drugs are used along with diet and exercise to lower blood sugar in adults with Type 2 diabetes, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) says. But incretin mimetics have been under scrutiny by the FDA and European regulators over reports of pancreatitis and pre-cancerous cellular changes among users. In 2009 the FDA ordered Amylin Pharmaceuticals to conduct post-marketing studies to determine the risk factors Byetta patients have for contracting pancreatitis and thyroid and pancreatic cancer, according to information for health care professionals posted on the FDA website.

Dan Koffman’s lawsuit says Eli Lilly and Co. and Amylin Pharmaceuticals LLC, the drug companies named in the lawsuit, “knew … or should have known, of the hazards and dangerous propensities of the drug,” according to the Monterey Herald. Those who took Byetta, even for a limited time, “were at increased risk for developing life-threatening pancreatic cancer,” the suit says. “Once that cancer spreads, a patient stands a 1.8 percent chance of surviving for longer than five years.”