Diabetes Drugs Cause Severe Joint Pain…What?

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Diabetes and Arthritis have long been bedfellows. Statistically, people who have been diagnosed with Diabetes have twice the likelihood of arthritis. The FDA recently put out an urgent warning that diabetics taking a whole class of diabetic medication to keep their blood sugar under control are at risk for severe and disabling joint pain.  Huh?  This class of Diabetes drugs cause severe joint pain yet they are being prescribed to diabetics already at risk for arthritis?

Creating medications to do what they’re intended to do, without doing other things as well, is something that our current technology has not been able to accomplish. To use a metaphor, while a particular medication is intended to fix a squeak on a car door, though what is needed is a can of WD-40 with one of those neat straws in the spray nozzle, the closest we can get is dumping the car into a vat of WD-40!

This is because it has not been possible to isolate, identify and control specific protein to protein interactions, the result of which are the “sledge hammer drugs” that flood the market. In addition, the skills needed to place medications specifically at certain sites are not widely available. That’s why when you see prescription medications advertised on TV, you get the creepy voice-over at the end, warning of things like suicidal tendencies, stroke, depression, heart attacks, etc. Combine that with the fact that it takes upwards of $1.3 billion to take a drug from invention to your local pharmacy in a symbiotic relationship between universities, Big Pharma, and the FDA, once the millions are raised by Wall Street, drugs tend to get approved and side effects get downplayed.

The class of drugs in question are DPP-4 inhibitors and are marketed under the names of Januvia, Janumet, Janumet XR, Onglyza, Kombiglyze XR, Tradjenta, Glyxambi, Jentadueto, Nesina, Kazano, Oseni.  DPP-4 is a hormone secreted by the body to stop the secretion of another hormone, GLP-1 which limits insulin secretion. The problem is, of course, that’s not all the DD-4 inhibitors do. The human body is incredible in that it uses things for many purposes. The GL-1 is not only inhibited in the blood sugar control system, but GL-1 is also a hormone used by the body to control inflammation. Bingo!  Out of control joint inflammation = arthritis and severe joint pain.

The upshot?  We’ve come a long way since the discovery of penicillin and there will always be a place for prescription medication. However the recent warning that a whole class of Diabetes Drugs cause severe joint pain is an important reminder that whether we’re talking prescription meds or surgery, it’s always better to make the lifestyle changes needed first and to use your own biologics to allow your body to heal itself, than to introduce drugs and their predictably unintended side effects into your system!

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Chris Centeno, MD is a specialist in regenerative medicine and the new field of Interventional Orthopedics. Centeno pioneered orthopedic stem cell procedures in 2005 and is responsible for a large amount of the published research on stem cell use for orthopedic applications. View Profile

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