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If you have type 2 diabetes and oral medication is not enough to control your blood glucose levels, your doctor may prescribe an injected medication other than insulin. Known as incretin mimetics, drugs in this class of type 2 diabetes medications mimic the action of glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1), an incretin hormone that triggers insulin production after a meal.
Exenatide (Byetta) was the first GLP-1 to hit the market, followed by liraglutide (Victoza). Byetta and Victoza act only when blood glucose levels are high, so they should not cause hypoglycemia. As blood glucose decreases, these medications stop stimulating insulin release.
GLP-1 medications are injected medications that are taken in addition to oral medications. People inject Byetta twice daily at meal time; Victoza requires only one injection per day and does not have to be taken with meals, though it must be taken at the same time each day. Both drugs can cause significant weight loss by decreasing appetite.
GLP-1 drugs are not recommended for people with type 1 diabetes, severe kidney disease or severe gastrointestinal disease. Nausea is the most common side effect. Vomiting and diarrhea may also occur. Because Byetta slows the absorption of oral drugs, you may need to take certain medications at least one hour before an injection of Byetta. There is some concern that Victoza may increase the risk of pancreatitis and thyroid cancer. Because these are new drugs, their long-term effects are still unknown.
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