GLP-1 Receptor Agonists: Uses, most common brand names, and safety information
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Glucagon-like peptide 1 (GLP-1) was discovered in 1987 and was found to be effective at stimulating pancreatic beta cells to produce insulin and reduce blood glucose levels. Since then, we have learned other effects it has on glucagon secretion, gastric emptying, and satiety that make it a perfect treatment target for diabetes.
The first Glucagon-like peptide-1 receptor agonist (GLP-1 RA), Byetta (exenatide), was approved in April 2005 by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for the treatment of type 2 diabetes mellitus (T2DM). Currently, there are a number of GLP-1 agonists on the market approved to treat T2DM as well as obesity. GLP-1 agonists are not indicated to treat type 1 diabetes.
The list below includes the most common GLP-1 receptor agonists and pricing:
List of GLP-1 receptor agonists
|Adlyxin (lixisenatide)||Adlyxin is used in addition to diet and exercise to improve glycemic control in adults with T2DM.
|Bydureon BCise (exenatide suspension)||Bydureon BCise is used with diet and exercise to reduce blood sugar levels in adults and children 10 years of age and older with T2DM.
|Byetta (exenatide)||Byetta is approved as an adjunct to diet and exercise alone or along with other medications to improve glycemic control in adults with T2DM.
|Mounjaro (tirzepatide)||Mounjaro is used in addition to diet and exercise to improve blood sugar control in adults with T2DM.
|Ozempic (semaglutide)||Ozempic is indicated along with diet and exercise to improve glycemic control and reduce major cardiovascular events in adults with T2DM.
|Rybelsus (semaglutide)||Rybelsus is used in addition to diet and exercise to improve glycemic control in adults with T2DM.
|Wegovy (semaglutide)||Wegovy is indicated as an adjunct to a reduced-calorie diet and exercise for chronic weight management in adults.
|Victoza (liraglutide)||Victoza is used in addition to diet and exercise to improve glycemic control and reduce major cardiovascular events in adults with T2DM.
|Saxenda (liraglutide)||Saxenda is indicated as an adjunct to a reduced-calorie diet and exercise for chronic weight management in adults.
|Tanzeum (albiglutide)||Tanzeum is used along with diet and exercise to improve glycemic control in adults with T2DM.
|Trulicity (dulaglutide)||Trulicity is used in addition to diet and exercise to improve glycemic control and reduce major cardiovascular events in adults with T2DM.
What are GLP-1 receptor agonists?
Glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1) and glucose-dependent insulinotropic polypeptide (GIP) are both incretin hormones that are released from gastrointestinal cells after a meal that results in insulin being secreted. They are then inactivated by dipeptidyl peptidase-4 (DPP-4). GLP-1 agonists, which are also called incretin mimetics, work by mimicking these actions to help improve blood glucose control and lose weight. GLP-1 agonists help reduce risks of cardiovascular events by improving cardiac output, left ventricular ejection fraction, and blood flow in the heart.
GLP-1 agonists are not the first-line treatment option for T2DM. The American Diabetes Association (ADA) recommends Glucophage (metformin) as the initial treatment of T2DM. GLP-1 agonists are now the preferred add-on therapy when metformin isn’t effective, particularly if you have risk factors such as hypertension, heart failure, or chronic kidney disease.
How do GLP-1 receptor agonists work?
GLP-1 agonists work to reduce hemoglobin A1c levels and improve weight loss by:
- Stimulating the pancreas to increase insulin secretion
- Slowing down gastric emptying times to help you feel full longer and to prevent sudden increases in your blood sugar
- Decreases the secretion of glucagon to prevent the liver from releasing glucose
GLP-1 agonists work to prevent major cardiovascular disease and improve cardiovascular outcomes in adults with T2DM and other comorbidities by:
- Lowering blood pressure
- Lowering total cholesterol
- Reducing plaque hemorrhage and rupture
- Improving cardiac output, endothelial function, and blood flow in the heart
What conditions are GLP-1 receptor agonists used to treat?
GLP-1 receptor agonists are indicated by the FDA as:
- an adjunct to a reduced calorie diet and exercise to improve blood glucose control in adults with T2DM.
- to reduce the risk of major adverse cardiovascular events (MACE) in adults with T2DM and cardiovascular disease.
- an adjunct to diet and exercise for chronic weight management in adults.
Note that indications may vary amongst products so speak with your healthcare provider or diabetes care team for medical advice on which drug will work best for your medical condition.
Are GLP-1 receptor agonists safe?
GLP-1 agonists can also cause a wide variety of possible side effects. While the majority of patients take these medications without any serious complications, they do carry a black box warning concerning the possible increased risk of medullary thyroid carcinoma. This comes from animal studies and was not replicated during placebo-controlled clinical trials.
Can you take GLP-1 receptor agonists while you are pregnant or breastfeeding?
Animal reproduction studies have shown there may be potential risks to the fetus if these medications are used during pregnancy. You should stop taking these drugs as soon as you find out you’re pregnant or at least 2 months before a planned pregnancy.
It is not known if these medications are found in breast milk. You should discuss the risks of using these medications during lactation with your healthcare provider.
What are the common side effects of GLP-1 receptor agonists?
GLP-1 agonists are typically given orally or by subcutaneous injection. Some common side effects include:
- Decreased appetite
Some of the more serious adverse effects of GLP-1 agonists include:
- Increased risk of thyroid tumors
- Low blood sugar (hypoglycemia), especially if taken with other diabetes drugs such as sulfonylurea or long-acting insulin
- Increased risk of pancreatitis.
- Acute kidney injury
- Worsening retinopathy
This is not a complete list of side effects and we encourage you to consult with your healthcare provider for a complete list of side effects.
How much do GLP-1 receptor agonists cost?
GLP-1 receptor agonists are very expensive with an average cost of around $10-15,000 per year.
You can purchase GLP-1 receptor agonists for $49 per month with the help of NiceRx if eligible for assistance. Prices at the pharmacy vary by location, strength, and quantity, as well as your insurance status.
Related resources for GLP-1 receptor agonists
The content on this website is intended for information purposes only. It does not constitute medical advice. The information on this website should not be relied upon and is not a substitute for professional medical advice. You should always speak to your doctor regarding the risks and benefits of any treatment.