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Diabetes Health Center

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Incretin Mimetics for Type 2 Diabetes


Generic Name Brand Name
exenatide Bydureon, Byetta
liraglutide Victoza

Exenatide and liraglutide are a type of medicine called incretin mimetics used to treat people who have type 2 diabetes and who have not been able to control their blood sugar levels with oral medicines. This medicine is given as a shot.

This medicine is also known as a glucagon-like peptide 1 (GLP-1) receptor agonist, or GLP-1 agonist.

How It Works

Incretin is a natural hormone that your body makes. It tells your body to release insulin after you eat. Insulin lowers blood sugar.

Incretin mimetics act like (mimic) the incretins in your body that lower blood sugar after eating. Incretin mimetics:

  • Prompt your pancreas to release insulin when blood sugar is rising.
  • Prevent the pancreas from giving out too much glucagon. Glucagon is a hormone that causes the liver to release its stored sugar into the bloodstream.
  • Help to slow the rate at which your stomach empties after eating. This may make you feel less hungry and more satisfied after a meal. Your blood sugar shouldn't get too high too fast after a meal.

Why It Is Used

These medicines help to keep blood sugar in a target range without causing low blood sugar or weight gain, unless they are taken in combination with medicines that do. Some people feel less hungry and lose weight while taking these medicines.

How Well It Works

Type 2 diabetes is a disease that can get worse over time, so medicines may need to change.

Diabetes medicines work best for people who are being active and eating healthy foods. Studies have suggested that incretin mimetics lower hemoglobin A1c by 0.5% to 1%.1

Side Effects

All medicines have side effects. But many people don't feel the side effects, or they are able to deal with them. Ask your pharmacist about the side effects of each medicine you take. Side effects are also listed in the information that comes with your medicine.

Here are some important things to think about:

  • Usually the benefits of the medicine are more important than any minor side effects.
  • Side effects may go away after you take the medicine for a while.
  • If side effects still bother you and you wonder if you should keep taking the medicine, call your doctor. He or she may be able to lower your dose or change your medicine. Do not suddenly quit taking your medicine unless your doctor tells you to.

Call911or other emergency services right away if you have:

Call your doctor if you have:

  • Hives.
  • Signs of a thyroid tumor, such as trouble swallowing or breathing or talking, or a lump in your neck.

Common side effects of this medicine include:

See Drug Reference for a full list of side effects. (Drug Reference is not available in all systems.)

What To Think About

Nausea is usually worse during the first few weeks of treatment and gets better over time. Some people have fewer problems with nausea when they eat slowly, drink more water, and eat smaller meals with less fat.

When the medicine is given in an extended-release formula, small lumps at the injection site may appear. These absorb into the body as the medicine is released.

Taking medicine

Medicine is one of the many tools your doctor has to treat a health problem. Taking medicine as your doctor suggests will improve your health and may prevent future problems. If you don't take your medicines properly, you may be putting your health (and perhaps your life) at risk.

There are many reasons why people have trouble taking their medicine. But in most cases, there is something you can do. For suggestions on how to work around common problems, see the topic Taking Medicines as Prescribed.

Advice for women

If you are pregnant, breast-feeding, or planning to get pregnant, do not use any medicines unless your doctor tells you to. Some medicines can harm your baby. This includes prescription and over-the-counter medicines, vitamins, herbs, and supplements. And make sure that all your doctors know that you are pregnant, breast-feeding, or planning to get pregnant.


Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.

Complete the new medication information form (PDF)(What is a PDF document?) to help you understand this medication.


  1. Inzucchi SE, et al. (2012). Management of hyperglycemia in type 2 diabetes: A patient-centered approach. Diabetes Care, 35(6): 1364-1379.

ByHealthwise Staff
Primary Medical ReviewerE. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine
Specialist Medical ReviewerDavid C.W. Lau, MD, PhD, FRCPC - Endocrinology

Current as ofNovember 14, 2014

WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: November 14, 2014
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.

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