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How do the diabetes drugs Byetta and Victoza affect weight?

Dr. Jack Merendino, MD
Endocrinologist

Since it was introduced in 2006, Byetta has been prescribed widely. Victoza was introduced in 2010 and has also been prescribed for many patients. Two words tell the story of their popularity: weight loss. In addition to increasing insulin and reducing glucagon, glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1) slows stomach emptying, leading to a feeling of fullness, and may suppress the appetite center in the brain. Even with Januvia or Onglyza, the levels of naturally occurring GLP-1 are not high enough to have a significant impact on appetite, but the GLP-1 effect with Byetta and Victoza is great enough to reduce appetite. Not everyone loses weight on these drugs, and among those who do lose weight, the amounts vary enormously—from as little as a couple of pounds to as much as 20 or 30 pounds or even more.

Byetta and Victoza have significant side effects. Because they slows stomach emptying, they cause nausea in many people, though this problem tends to improve with time. Byetta and Victoza may make acid reflux (heartburn) worse. This can be a serious problem in someone with diabetic gastroparesis, a form of neuropathy in which the stomach already empties too slowly. A relatively rare but serious side effect reported with Byetta and Victoza is pancreatitis, an inflammatory condition of the pancreas characterized by severe pain. Pancreatitis can result in chronic pain, digestive problems, and further worsening of diabetes. Severe cases are sometimes fatal. Pancreatitis appears to happen in fewer than 1 in 1,000 people on Byetta or Victoza, and for now there is no absolute proof that the drugs increase the risk of this condition. However, since it's such a serious problem, it's essential to tell your doctor if you have abdominal pain while taking either Byetta or Victoza.

The Best Life Guide to Managing Diabetes and Pre-Diabetes

More About this Book

The Best Life Guide to Managing Diabetes and Pre-Diabetes

Bob Greene has helped millions of Americans become fit and healthy with his life-changing Best Life plan. Now, for the first time, Oprah's trusted expert on diet and fitness teams up with a leading...
William Lee Dubois
Endocrinologist

When taken twice per day before the major meals, Byetta slows the stomach down and repairs the wires between the stomach and the brain. Patients feel fuller faster. The result is often major weight loss. I’ve seen folks shed 30 pounds on this in six weeks!

The Born-Again Diabetic: The handbook to help you get your diabetes in control (again)

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The Born-Again Diabetic: The handbook to help you get your diabetes in control (again)

Much has been written about the explosion of diabetes on the world stage the 4,000 new cases a day we all know about, the millions of people unaware they have diabetes. But another epidemic is...
Ms. Vandana  R. Sheth
Nutrition & Dietetics Specialist

Byetta and Victoza slow down gastric emptying and acts as an appetite suppressant. Both of these mechanisms can help cause weight loss.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.