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What is exenatide for diabetes?

Exenatide (brand name Byetta) is the first in a new class of drugs for the treatment of type 2 diabetes called incretin mimetics. Exenatide is a synthetic version of exendin-4, a naturally-occurring hormone that was first isolated from the saliva of the lizard known as a Gila monster.

Exenatide works to lower blood glucose levels primarily by increasing insulin secretion. Because it only has this effect in the presence of elevated blood glucose levels, it does not tend to increase the risk of hypoglycemia on its own, although hypoglycemia can occur if taken in conjunction with a sulfonylurea. The primary side effect is nausea, which tends to improve over time.

Exenatide is injected with meals, and patients using exenatide have generally experienced modest weight loss as well as improved glycemic control. Exenatide has been approved for use by people with type 2 diabetes who have not achieved their target A1C levels using metformin, a sulfonylurea, or a combination of metformin and a sulfonylurea.

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