GLP1 Receptor Agonists



Download PDFs  
English
Espanol



Editors
Silvio Inzucchi, MD
Julio Rosenstock, MD



Additional Resources
Mayo Clinic
FDA

What are GLP-1 receptor agonist medicines?

GLP-1 receptor agonist medicines, also called incretin mimetics, are a type of incretin-based medicine for type 2 diabetes. This type of medicine is based on the action of hormones called incretins, which help control how the pancreas works. One type of incretin, called GLP-1, causes your pancreas to produce more insulin after you eat and helps keep blood glucose levels in the normal range. These medicines (exanatide and liraglutide) copy, or mimic, the action of GLP-1 made by your body. The effects of GLP-1 only last for a few minutes, but GLP-1 receptor agonists medicines can last about 10 hours.

GLP-1 receptor agonists come as a liquid, which you inject under the skin on your stomach, thigh, or upper arm. Depending on which medicine you use, you inject it either once or twice daily, or once weekly. GLP-1 receptor agonists are used alone or along with other diabetes medicines.

What are the benefits of GLP-1 receptor agonist medicines?

They help keep your blood glucose from going too high by:

  • Increasing the insulin made by your pancreas
  • Decreasing glucagon, a hormone that releases glucose from your liver
  • Helping you feel full after a meal, which means that you eat less
  • Slowing the emptying of the stomach’s contents into the intestines, which lowers blood glucose levels after a meal

What are the side effects and disadvantages of GLP-1 receptor agonist medicines?

GLP-1 receptor agonists don’t cause low blood glucose, a condition called hypoglycemia. But you’re at risk for low blood glucose if you also take diabetes pills or insulin that may cause hypoglycemia. Low blood glucose can make you feel hungry, dizzy, nervous, shaky, or confused. You can learn what to eat or drink to bring your blood glucose level back up to normal.

Exenatide and liraglutide can cause nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, headache, weakness, or dizziness. Some side effects are warning signs of serious conditions. For example, nausea and vomiting with abdominal pain could be pancreatitis (inflammation of the pancreas). Ask your doctor which signs to watch for and what to do if those signs happen.

How will I know which diabetes medicines are best for me?

Talk with your doctor about your diabetes medicines. Ask if there are other medicines that can help you, or if you should use more than one medicine. Tell your doctor about any side effects you have from your medicines. Be sure to tell your doctor about your other health conditions and whether you are pregnant or planning to become pregnant. Then your doctor can make the best choice of medicine for you.

Questions to ask your doctor

  • What else can I do to keep my blood glucose levels under control?
  • How often should I have check-ups?
  • What side effects can happen with my medicines?
  • Is my new medicine covered by my insurance and if not is it costly?
  • What should I do if I forget to take my diabetes medicine?
  • Should I see a diabetes educator?
  • Should I see an endocrinologist for my diabetes care?