Sitagliptin belongs to the class of drugs called DPP-4 inhibitors. Gliptins are one of the classes of medications given to type 2 diabetics who are unable to control their blood sugar levels with diet and exercise alone. Sitagliptin was the first drug from this class to get an FDA approval in 2006.
Many side effects are attributed to sitagliptin. Some are minor like headache, nausea, hypersensitivity and skin reactions. However, some health complications are serious and potentially life-threatening. These are heart failure, pancreatitis (inflammation of the pancreas), and cancer of the thyroid and pancreas.
A recent study, published in the European Journal of Clinical Investigation, found that sitagliptins posed a significant risk of pancreatic cancer. This risk increased with dosage. Pancreatic cancers are difficult to detect and can grow without any apparent symptoms. It is only in the later stages, when the tumor has grown to dangerous proportions, can symptoms be visible. And the extent of the damage is difficult to determine even at that stage.
Another study published in the journal Oncotarget found that sitagliptin use increased the risk of thyroid cancer, especially in the first year of its use. Although the chances of developing thyroid cancer are low, the risk is real. Thyroid cancer may not cause death in all patients, but the side effects cause serious debilitation.
It should be noted that gliptins are usually recommended during the early stages of diabetes or in patients in whom type 2 diabetes has recently been diagnosed. This is because sitagliptins increase insulin production by pancreas when the pancreatic cells are still active. In the later stages the pancreas usually aren’t able to produce enough insulin and other medication that brings down blood sugar levels by other mechanisms are preferred.
It is worrisome to note that conventional anti-diabetic medication can only offer relief to some extent but in the long run, they really do more harm than good. All the major classes of drugs currently in use for managing diabetes have a wide range of side effects – some minor and some life-threatening. And yet, the cost-benefit ratio and the fact that conventional medicine has no answers for a chronic disease like type 2 diabetes makes these drugs the only option in the fight against diabetes.
A functional medicine approach looks at all chronic diseases as reversible. Type 2 diabetes is no different. Using a disciplined and holistic diet and lifestyle modifications, it is possible to reverse this condition and live a life full of health and wellness.