Pancreatitis Caused by Prescription Drugs

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FDA Finds Link Between Pancreatitis and Prescription Drugs

What should I watch out for?

Pancreatitis is swelling or inflammation of the pancreas with many causes and side effects. It caused by prescription drugs use can be serious and lead to permanent injuries, including death. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has investigated several prescription drugs in recent years due to the drugs’ link to pancreatitis.

Tell me about Pancreatitis.

Pancreatitis is a condition characterized by an inflamed pancreas.  Almost 210,000 patients are diagnosed every year in the United States.  The pancreas is an organ located in the upper abdomen with a role to help digestion and regulate blood sugar in the human body. The inflammation occurs when the digestive enzymes start digesting the pancreas.

There are two types of pancreatitis, acute and chronic.  Acute pancreatitis is the sudden inflammation of the pancreas, either mild or life-threatening, that usually goes away within a couple days.  The leading causes are:

  • Gallstones
  • Heavy alcohol use or abuse
  • Certain prescription drugs
  • Direct trauma by blunt injuries
  • Abdominal surgery
  • Infections such as mumps, HIV, shingles, salmonella
  • Hereditary, such as cystic fibrosis
  • Cigarette smoking
  • Pancreatic cancer

Acute pancreatitis usually starts with pain in the upper abdomen that may last a few days. The pain may be intense pain or minor pain that is intensified by eating. Besides abdominal pain, other symptoms may include nausea, vomiting, fever, loss of appetite and fatty stool.

Chronic pancreatitis consists of a long-term inflammation of the pancreas that can lead to permanent damage. Chronic cases may develop as a result of an acute diagnoses. Chronic pancreatitis can last for months or years and it eventually affects the body’s ability to digest food and regulate blood sugar. Generally, chronic cases occur after years of alcohol abuse and causes:

  • Pain
  • Malabsorption of food
  • Unintentional weight loss
  • Diabetes mellitus

Whereas an acute diagnosis requires hospitalization with most patients, a chronic diagnosis does not always require hospitalization. Chronic patients may not have any pain associated with the condition. Many times, chronic pancreatitis can be treated in an outpatient program instead of the hospital setting required for acute patients.

Most of the diagnoses in the United States are related to alcohol consumption and gallstones. Doctors usually use blood amylase and/or lipase testing to reach a diagnosis.

It is generally treated with intravenous fluids, pain medication and antibiotics. Fasting can be required during treatment. If a medication caused the pancreatitis, cessation of the medication is highly recommended.

What complications may result from Pancreatitis?

This can be a life-threatening diagnosis with dangerous complications, such as:

  • Infection of the pancreas
  • Pseudocyst
  • Bleeding
  • Damage to other organs
  • Malnutrition
  • Diabetes mellitus
  • Pancreatic cancer
  • Pseudocyst

Acute cases can cause infection of the pancreas because it makes your pancreas susceptible to bacteria and infection. Infections of the pancreas are serious and oftentimes requires surgery to remove the infected area.

Pancreatitis is linked to a serious complication known as a pseudocyst. A pancreatitis pseudocyst is a fluid-filled and debris-filled sac that forms in the abdomen. The rupture of a pseudocyst can cause dangerous complications like internal bleeding and severe infection.

Acute pancreatitis can also cause bleeding problems since it causes your body’s chemicals to change and affects your ability to breath. This drops your body’s oxygen levels to fall to alarmingly low levels. Similarly, severe pancreatitis can result in damage to other critical organs of the body, including the body’s heart, lungs and kidneys.

Patients with acute and chronic diagnoses are at high risk for malnutrition.  Malnutrition happens as a result of your pancreas producing fewer enzymes needed to break down and process vitamins and nutrients from ingested food.  Malnutrition leads to weight loss and diarrhea as your body is unable to absorb the food’s nutrients.

The pancreas is an organ used to help regulate blood sugar in the body. Chronic cases cause damage to the insulin-producing cells in your pancreas and can lead to diabetes mellitus. Diabetes mellitus is a chronic disorder in which the amount of sugar in the blood is elevated.

The chronic diagnosis additionally causes prolonged inflammation in the pancreas, especially in smokers, and is linked to pancreatic cancer. Pancreatic cancer is a rare complication of chronic pancreatitis.

What prescription drugs might cause Pancreatitis?

Drug-induced pancreatitis is rare and a cause of only 2 percent of acute pancreatitis cases. According to the World Health Organization, 525 drugs are suspected of causing an acute diagnosis in patients. Some common medications linked to this disease are:

  • Atypical antipsychotics such as Olanzapine, Risperidone and Clozapine
  • SGLT2 inhibitor Type 2 diabetes drugs, such as Invokana and Metformin
  • Misclassified medical food Limbrel (Flavocoxid)
  • Irritable bowel syndrome medicine Viberzi (Eluxadoline)
  • Valproic acid
  • ACE inhibitors
  • Statin drugs, such as Lipitor (Atorvastatin)
  • Rheumatoid arthritis medication Actemra (Tocilizumab)

How common is Pancreatitis?

Approximately 8.9 million people were diagnosed around the world in 2015, resulting in over 130,000 pancreatitis-related deaths. Men are more commonly diagnosed with this disease than women. This can be extremely painful and for 10 percent of patients, it can be fatal.

Gallbladder stones or heavy alcohol consumption account for approximately 80 percent of the acute cases. Drug-induced pancreatitis, trauma or surgery account for 10 percent of the acute diagnoses.

The remaining 10 percent of cases that are acute are diagnosed for unknown reasons. This unknown cause is known as idiopathic pancreatitis. This occurs in patients that take no medications linked to the disease and has no family history of the disease or trauma.

Be on Watch.

Pancreatitis is a rare disease with swelling or inflammation of the pancreas.  Alcohol use and gallstones account for the majority of diagnoses.  However, the FDA has linked certain prescription drugs to the disease.  Medications linked to the disease include atypical antipsychotics, Type 2 diabetes drugs, misclassified medical food, irritable bowel syndrome medicine, ACE inhibitors, statin drugs and rheumatoid arthritis medication.


If you or a loved one developed pancreatitis as a result of taking a prescription drug, you may qualify for financial compensation for medical expenses, loss of income, and injuries suffered.

Call us at (888) 458-6825 or send us an email inquiry to discuss your legal options.

The consultation is free and confidential.

For more information on medications or medical devices that can have fatal side effects, please visit our In the News section.



  1. Medical Net Pancreatitis Definition
  2. Wikipedia Pancreatitis Definition
  3. Drug-Induced Acute Pancreatitis
  4. Cleveland Clinic Acute Pancreatitis–chronic-overview