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Diabetes Health Center

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Diabetes Drugs You Inject That Aren't Insulin

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Liraglutide (Victoza)

What it is: This is another GLP-1 drug. You inject it once a day. It helps your body release more insulin. This helps move glucose from your bloodstream into your cells.

Who can take it: Adults who have type 2 diabetes but haven’t had results with other treatment. You take it in combination with metformin or a sulfonylurea drug. If you're planning to get pregnant, talk with your doctor. Liraglutide hasn’t been studied in pregnant women.

What it does: Like the other GLP-1 drugs, liraglutide cues your pancreas to release insulin. This moves glucose out of your bloodstream and into your cells. It also limits how much of the hormone glucagon your body makes. This substance prompts your liver to release stored sugar. The drug also slows digestion.

Side effects: The most common ones include nausea, diarrhea, and headache. Inflammation of the pancreas (pancreatitis), which may be severe, is another side effect.

All GLP-1 drugs, including liraglutide, have a boxed warning noting that in animal studies, this type of drug has been linked to thyroid cancer in some rats and mice. Experts don't know whether it has the same effect in people.

It's possible to have an allergic reaction to liraglutide, or to get low blood sugar while you're taking it. If you get dehydrated from nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea, that could lead to kidney failure.

Pramlintide (Symlin)

What it is: It's a man-made version of a hormone called amylin, which your pancreas makes along with insulin when your blood sugar levels rise.

Who can take it: It's approved for people with type 1 diabetes who are taking insulin. It's also OK'd for people with type 2 diabetes who are taking insulin, a sulfonylurea drug, or metformin. If you think you could get pregnant, tell your doctor, since researchers haven't studied this drug in pregnant women.

What it does: You take pramlintide with insulin after a meal. The two drugs work together to lower your blood sugar. Pramlintide also helps you digest food more slowly. This puts less sugar into your bloodstream. In addition to controlling your A1C levels, pramlintide helps lessen your appetite, so you eat less.

Side effects: Nausea is the most common one. Starting this drug at a low dose and increasing it slowly can help fight the nausea. Other side effects include less appetite, vomiting, stomach pain, tiredness, dizziness, or indigestion. The drug can also cause low blood sugar if you don't adjust the amount of insulin you're taking.

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