What are incretin mimetics and how do they work?

Are you on oral medications for type 2 diabetes but still seeing frustratingly high numbers on your blood sugar meter? Maybe you need a little extra help. Incretin mimetics are injectable drugs that work in tandem with oral diabetes medications to help keep glucose levels in check.

What are incretin mimetics?

"These medications replace a hormone (glucagon-like peptide 1 [GLP-1]) which is one of a group of hormones released in the small intestine," explained Hope Warshaw, RD, CDE and author of Diabetes Meal Planning Made Easy. "This hormone has been found to be waning in people with diabetes. Victoza and other drugs in this category, like Byetta and Bydureon, work in a few ways. They increase insulin production (so they can only work if you still make insulin), slow the rise of blood glucose after eating because it slows down the pace that foods travel through your gut, decreases hunger and appetite, and in many people, assists with weight loss."

Since incretin mimetics are not recommended for use with insulin, they are usually prescribed only for type 2 diabetes. One of the most common side effects is nausea, which was reported in 44 percent of those who took the higher dosages. However, the nausea eased over time and with smaller doses. In better news, clinical studies of the drugs showed a promising drop in A1C levels as well as a gradual, steady weight loss.

Are incretin mimetics really safe?

Incretin mimetics are a much newer medication than other standards, such as metformin or sulfonylureas. As a result, they are still the subject of many clinical trials. Does that make them unsafe? Absolutely not.

"Byetta has been available in the US and approved by FDA for many years," Warshaw said. "Victoza has been available over two years. Bydureon was approved by the FDA in January 2012 and is just becoming available to people with diabetes. It's very common to see ongoing studies and comparison studies between drugs post approval."

Just one more step in the battle against diabetes

Though incretin mimetics can be a great for those who need more help getting their blood sugar levels under control, the classic remedies never go out of style. That includes getting plenty of exercise, eating the right foods and being vigilant about blood glucose testing. Keep track of your blood glucose levels and speak with your doctor about any concerning trends. If your blood sugars are still riding higher than they should be, incretin mimetics may be right for you.

About Shannon Lee

Shannon Lee began writing about diabetes long before she was diagnosed in 1998. A professional writer with over two decades of experience, Shannon has covered topics from medical and health to relationships and is the author of several published novels.

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