Type 2 Diabetes – Are There New Diabetes Drugs Available to Lower Blood Sugars? – Is there now something better than Byetta? The marketing people at Novo Nordisk certainly want us to think so. In January 2010 regulators gave their approval to sell the new drug for type 2 diabetes called Victoza in the world’s biggest market for diabetes drugs, the USA.
Victoza is a new drug in the class of medications known as GLP-1 analogues. Glucagon-like peptide 1, or GLP-1 for short, is a hormone secreted by the lining of your intestines when there is food in your gut. GLP-1 has a number of functions that help lower blood sugars. Victoza:
stimulates the pancreas to secrete more insulin, and it has a stronger effect on the pancreas when blood sugar levels are high
decreases the secretion of glucagon. This is the hormone the pancreas secretes to make sure blood sugar levels do not go too low while the bloodstream is waiting on digested food. Glucagon triggers the release of glucose from glycogen stored in the liver
makes beta cells grow bigger and it increases the expression of genes to make insulin
keeps the stomach from producing acid so food stays in the stomach longer, helping you feel full, and
increases sensitivity to insulin.
So what’s not to love about any drug that mimics GLP-1?
The problem is sometimes the net effect of the drug is to lower blood sugars, and sometimes drugs in this class, which also includes Byetta, raise blood sugars. And both effects can be drastic.
The average benefit of taking either Victoza or Byetta is a lowering of your HbA1c level of about 1%. That’s very useful, but you get that much benefit from the far less expensive metformin or the absolutely cost-free changes you can make in your blood sugar levels with a sensible plant-based diet.
Victoza has the potential to raise the risk of thyroid cancer… at least in lab rats. Among humans who take the drug, it increases the frequency of thyroid problems to about 3% a year. This effect, of course, completely cancels out any benefit of the drug for those 3% of diabetics who take it.
There are just not a lot of good reasons to take Victoza. If you do, be sure your health care practitioner monitors your thyroid function every year.
Virtually any prescription medication has the potential for adverse side effects. Since these particular ones slow stomach emptying, their most common adverse effects are gastrointestinal disturbances such as:
stomach ache, and
So the best plan is to take these medications at a low dose and work up gradually to the ideal dose to stabilize your blood sugar levels.