While diet, exercise and weight control provide a strong foundation, sometimes it's not enough and medication is needed to help the body achieve and maintain a target blood sugar level. Byetta is one of those medications that can help individuals with type 2 diabetes improve their blood sugar control.

What is Byetta?

Byetta is an injectable medication that does the following:

  1. Helps prevent high blood sugars after eating by acting like the body's natural hormones
  2. Tells the pancreas to produce the correct amount of insulin after eating
  3. Prevents the liver from creating and releasing too much glucose (especially after eating)

Byetta is an artificial protein, glucagon-like peptide (GLP-1), that mimics the actions and behaviors of GLP-1. It is important to note that Byetta is not an insulin and should not be used as a substitute for insulin. However, it can be used in combination with metformin, a sulfonylurea, or Lantus (insulin glargine).

How should you take Byetta?

Byetta should be injected twice daily, typically before your morning and evening meals. It should be injected within 1 hour (60 minutes) before each of those meals. According to Amylin Pharmaceuticals, you should not inject Byetta after your meal because there is an increased risk of hypoglycemia.

Byetta is available in two different prefilled pens: a 5-microgram dose and a 10-microgram does. Pen needles are not included with the pens and you need to get a prescription from your physician for the needles. A 29-, 30 or 31-gauge disposable needle is recommended.

Byetta can be injected in the following areas:

  • Abdomen
  • Thigh
  • Upper arm

What are the Byetta side effects?

According to information from Amylin Pharmaceuticals, Byetta can lead to several side effects, including the following:

Hypoglycemia. If you take Byetta with a thiazolidinedione or metformin, there is a slight risk of hypoglycemia. However, that risk increases if you use Byetta in conjunction with a sulfonylurea.

Allergic reactions. In some cases, patients may experience severe allergic reactions. If so, you should get medical attention immediately.

Kidney problems. Patient safety information notes that Byetta can worsen existing kidney problems and, in some cases, cause new problems to appear. 

Other reactions. In addition to the side effects mentioned above, Byetta can also cause vomiting, nausea, headache and dizziness.

This is not an exhaustive list of side effects associated with Byetta. Be sure to consult with your health care provider about any side effects and to get medical advice.

Editor's Note: Please see the following links for patient safety information and a patient starter kit from Amylin Pharmaceuticals, Inc.

Important patient safety information from Amyin Pharmaceuticals, Inc.

Patient Starter Kit from Amylin Pharmaceuticals, Inc.

Article sources  expand

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