Dual Purpose Diabetes Drugs

by Mark Benson on January 13, 2012

New roles for diabetes drugs

A new study has found that two drugs that have been approved to treat Type 2 diabetes have other special properties. The drugs are Byetta and Victoza can also aid individuals with weight issues, regardless if they have diabetes or not.

The active ingredients of the drug mimics gut hormones that help in decreasing one’s appetite. Under regular circumstances, the two drugs are often prescribed to diabetics having issues with their blood sugar levels. The conclusion was made after a reanalysis was made of twenty-five other studies made between the drugs and diabetes.

The drugs, when injected daily or weekly for at least five months would help obese individuals without diabetes to lose an average of seven pounds. The drug regimen can also help diabetics with weight problems lose an average of six pounds. These results make the drugs possible alternatives to help in treating obesity.

According to head researcher Tina Vilsboll, MD, DMSc, “It’s not a cure, but it’s a good treatment. And you still need to combine it with lifestyle changes.” She is an endocrinologist as well as an associate professor at the Gentofte Hospital in Hellerup, Denmark.

She adds that the weight loss experienced by diabetic patients through the use of these two drugs help in encouraging them to continue on their diet and exercise regimens to further have weight loss in the long run.  She said, “They use it as a tool for changing their lifestyle.”

Another good side effect of the drug is the ability to lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels resulting in reduction in the risk of heart disease. There are other side effects too, as these drugs are known as glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1) receptor agonists. They act by slowing down the movement of food through the gastrointestinal tract. After a heavy meal, this can cause nausea or vomiting to the individual. These side effects though lessens over time and would not be the main cause for individuals to stop using the drugs in question.

Many other experts are cautious about the possible use of the drugs as weight loss medication. According to Susan Spratt, MD, an endocrinologist and Director of Diabetes Services at the Duke University Health System in Durham, North Carolina, “We do have an obesity epidemic. Weight loss by traditional means – diet and exercise – is extremely hard and for people who are successful initially, it’s also very hard to maintain.”

She adds, “If we could use these drugs just in people with obesity and know that it’s safe, I think it would be a fantastic addition to our ability to treat obesity. I’ve had diabetic patients lose sixty pounds on these medications. Now, those folks were 400 pounds, so they lost 10% to 15% of their body weight. Somebody who’s 200 pounds isn’t going to lose that much.”

Since the drugs are already available, many doctors have already prescribed them solely for weight loss. Many experts believe that “off-label” use of the drugs can have many risks involved. As of the moment, large-scale studies to test the drugs for weight loss in people who are diabetes free are well underway.


The opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the views of the DiabetesForum.com Community and should not be interpreted as medical advice. Please see your doctor before making any changes to your diabetes management plan.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Mary January 23, 2012 at 7:54 am

I was on Victoza for a short time as the side effects were "AWFUL!" I was constantly sick and when I wasn't sick, I would emit the FOULEST odor when I burped. It was like something died in my stomach. It was AWFUL! I caution anybody who decides to take Victoza. I have no experience with Byetta, however.

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