Invokana burst onto the market in 2013, the first of a new class of diabetes drugs to win FDA approval. It was considered a revolutionary breakthrough, a potential game changer for those suffering from Type 2 Diabetes.
Invokana, the brand name of canagliflozin, was highly touted for its innovative approach to lowering blood sugar ― the key to controlling diabetes. It was the first version of a novel class of medications called sodium glucose co-transporter 2 (SGLT2) inhibitors, which work differently than other diabetes drugs by altering kidney function. SGLT inhibitors lower blood sugar by causing the kidneys to remove sugar (glucose) from the body through urine.
Not only did Invokana promise to lower blood sugar, but the once-a-day pill came with an added claim of inducing weight loss and lowering blood pressure. It quickly gained popularity, becoming Pharma Giant Johnson & Johnson’s newest blockbuster drug.
In May 2015, just two years after its market debut, the FDA warned patients and doctors that Invokana and other SGLT2 inhibitors may lead to ketoacidosis, a serious and potentially fatal condition that produces high levels of acid in the blood. At various times in the following months, the FDA ordered SGLT2 manufacturers to add warnings to their labels about the risk for ketoacidosis, bone fractures and acute kidney injury.
As the FDA continues to monitor Invokana and other SGLT2 inhibitors, the controversial drugs continues to be aggressively marketed and sold at a rapid pace. Meanwhile, dozens of Invokana lawsuits have been filed across the country against Johnson & Johnson and its subsidiary Janssen Pharmaceuticals, alleging they may have known about these risks, but put profit over patient health.