Invokana (also known as canagliflozin) was the “first-to-market” medicine in a class of drugs called SGLT2 inhibitors. This class of drugs is approved for use by patients with type 2 diabetes to lower blood sugar. If left untreated, type 2 diabetes can lead to serious problems, including kidney failure, blindness, and heart disease. SGLT2 inhibitors, including Invokana, lowers blood sugar levels by excreting excess sugar from the body through the urine.
Invokana is sold by Janssen Pharmaceuticals, a division of Johnson & Johnson. When Janssen presented Invokana to the FDA for approval, the FDA determined that patients being treated with Invokana had a 650% greater chance of suffering a heart attack or stroke within 30 days of beginning the drug than people who did not take the drug. While the cause of this immediate reaction is unknown, researchers believe that the diuretic properties of Invokana causes patients to shed water and destabilizes the body in the short term which is problematic for people with who are already at risk for heart attack or stroke. After some time on the drug, the patient’s body compensates for the water loss and the risk is reduced. However, rather than include this information in their warning label Janssen Pharmaceuticals chose to hide it from doctors and patients, putting millions of patients at risk. In the meantime, the FDA has required Janssen to perform further studies on the risk of heart attack and stroke in patients taking Invokana.
The FDA recently issued a warning that it was receiving many reports of diabetic ketoacidosis or ketosis associated with the use of Invokana. Ketoacidosis is a severe reaction normally only observed in people with type 1 diabetes. As such, news of it occurring in people with type 2 diabetes is extremely alarming. Ketoacidosis occurs when acid levels in the human body rise to extremely high, unacceptable levels. Symptoms of ketoacidosis include difficulty breathing, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, fatigue. If ketoacidosis is left untreated, it can be life threatening and in some cases, even fatal. This side effect is not limited to Invokana, however, Invokana is the most popular SGLT2 drug on the market and likely the most offending. the drug’s manufacturer. Not surprisingly, Janssen Pharmaceuticals has chosen to point to its own studies—which, conveniently do not show an elevated risk of ketoacidosis—rather than acknowledge the risks associated with Invokana,
Type 2 diabetes is a growing problem in the US and drug manufacturers have recognized that there are potentially millions of patients in need of a solution. As a result, drug manufacturers spend hundreds of millions of dollars developing medications to sell to these patients. Because of the enormity of the investment spent on the development of these drugs, pharmaceutical companies need to sell as much of their drugs as possible. Oftentimes, as is the case here, these companies hide negative side effects from the FDA, doctors, and patients. This is wrong and pharmaceutical drug manufacturers should be held responsible.
If you or a loved one has taken Invokana and suffered diabetic ketoacidosis, ketosis, or an adverse cardiac event such as stroke or heart attack, please contact our office to discuss the possibility of filing a lawsuit against the manufacturer of this drug.