Incretin Mimetics for Type 2 Diabetes

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Incretin Mimetics for Type 2 Diabetes


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Liraglutide is 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 1 or 2 times a day.

How It Works

Incretin mimetics act like (mimic) the natural hormones in your body that lower blood sugar. These hormones are called incretins. Liraglutide:

  • Allows your pancreas to release insulin. This drug lowers blood sugar levels only when they rise too high.
  • Prevents the pancreas from giving out glucagon. Glucagon is a hormone that causes the liver to release its stored sugar into the bloodstream.
  • Helps to slow the rate at which your stomach empties after eating. This may make you feel less hungry and more satisfied after a meal.

Why It Is Used

Liraglutide can be used when metformin or sulfonylurea drugs are not working to control blood sugar. You may take liraglutide with these oral drugs. You most likely will not use liraglutide if you are using insulin.

How Well It Works

Early studies showed that some incretin mimetics lowered blood sugar levels both before and after eating.1 Studies also showed that people who added an incretin mimetic to their treatment with some oral medicines had lower hemoglobin A1c levels than they did before they added liraglutide to their treatment.2 A1c is a measure of how well blood sugar levels have remained within a target range over the previous 2 to 3 months.

Side Effects

The most common side effects of liraglutide are nausea and diarrhea. Nausea is usually worse during the first few weeks of treatment and gets better over time.

Taking liraglutide with a sulfonylurea drug may cause mild to moderate low blood sugar (hypoglycemia). If you take both drugs, you may need to take a lower dose of the sulfonylurea to prevent low blood sugar. But low blood sugar is not a side effect when liraglutide is taken with metformin.

People with severe kidney disease should not take liraglutide.

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

What To Think About

Before injecting liraglutide, talk to your doctor about other medicines you are taking. Liraglutide may affect how other medicines are absorbed into your system.

If you are pregnant or want to become pregnant, talk with your doctor before you take liraglutide. He or she may recommend that you take another drug, because the safety of liraglutide during pregnancy has not been studied in humans.

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



  1. Exenatide (Byetta) for type 2 diabetes. (2005). Medical Letter on Drugs and Therapeutics, 47(1210): 45–46.
  2. DeFronzo RA, et al. (2005). Effects of exenatide (exendin-4) on glycemic control and weight over 30 weeks in metformin-treated patients with type 2 diabetes. Diabetes Care, 28(5): 1092–1100.


By Healthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer E. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine
Primary Medical Reviewer Brian D. O'Brien, MD - Internal Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer Matthew I. Kim, MD - Endocrinology
Last Revised August 4, 2010

This information does not replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise, Incorporated disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information.