FAQs About Non-Insulin Injections

By

Ellen Greenlaw

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Man injecting insulin

When someone mentions injections to treat diabetes, you probably think of insulin.

But there are other types of injections that can help control your blood sugar levels, especially after meals.

Here’s what you need to know about these medicines.

Type 2 diabetics should check their blood sugar before and after every meal to make sure their levels are within a healthy range. In part one of this three-part series, we meet Charlene, whose fear of the needle prick kept her from checking for more than a year!

Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS Last Review Date: Aug 13, 2015

What are non-insulin injections?

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved sixnon-insulin injections to treat diabetes:

  • Albiglutide (Tanzeum)
  • Exenatide (Bydureon or Byetta—these are the same medicine, but Bydureon is longer acting)
  • Liraglutide (Victoza)
  • Pramlintide (Symlin)
  • Dulaglutide (Trulicity)
  • Lixisenatide (Adlyxin)

How do they work?

Byetta, Bydureon, Victoza, Tanzeum, Trulicity and Adlyxin work by increasing the amount of insulin the pancreas makes when blood sugar (glucose) is high. They also reduce the amount of glucose the liver makes, slow digestion, and decrease appetite.

Symlin works in much the same way as the other medicines, except it doesn’t increase the amount of insulin the pancreas produces.

Who can use these medicines?

Byetta, Bydureon, Victoza, Trulicity and Adlyxin are used only to treat type 2 diabetes. Symlin can be used to treat type 1 or type 2 diabetes. Your doctor can tell you whether one might be right for you.

Do I still need to take insulin?

These medicines don’t take the place of insulin. If you use insulin, you will still need to take it, but you may need a lower dose. You may also continue to take other types of medicine to treat your diabetes. Your doctor will help you decide which medicines are best for you and the right dose of each.

How often do I need to take non-insulin injections?

Your doctor will tell you how often to take these medicines. Each one has its own dosing schedule:

  • Bydureon is usually injected once a week. You can take it at any time of day.

  • Byetta is usually injected twice a day, about an hour before breakfast and dinner.

  • Victoza is usually injected once a day, at around the same time of day. It doesn’t have to be taken before meals.

  • Symlin is usually injected several times a day before meals.
  • Trulicity and Tanzeum are usually injected once a week.
  • Adlyxin is usually injected once a a day at mealtime.

It’s important to take these medicines exactly as your doctor tells you to. Your doctor may start you on a small dose at first and increase your dose with time.

What are the side effects?

The most common side effects of these medicines are nausea and vomiting. They can also cause low or high blood sugar. Make sure you talk about the symptoms of high and low blood sugar with your doctor so you know what to do if this happens.

Bydureon, Victoza and Trulicity can also increase your risk for thyroid cancer. Ask your doctor what symptoms to watch for.

Key Takeaways

  • What are non-insulin injections? Six non-insulin injections are approved to treat diabetes: albiglutide (Tanzeum), exenatide (Bydureon or Byetta), liraglutide (Victoza), dulaglutide (Trulicity), lixisenatide (Adlyxin) and pramlintide (Symlin).

  • How do they work? Byetta, Bydureon, Victoza, Adlyxin, Tanzeum and Trulicity increase the amount of insulin the pancreas makes when blood sugar is high. They also reduce the amount of glucose the liver makes, slow digestion, and decrease appetite. Symlin works in much the same way, except it doesn’t increase the amount of insulin the pancreas produces.

  • Do I still need to take insulin? If you use insulin, you will still need to take it, but you may need a lower dose.

  • How often do I need to take these injections? Each type has its own dosing schedule, from once a week to several times a day.

  • What are the side effects? The most common are nausea and vomiting. These medicines can also cause low or high blood sugar.

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Medical Reviewers: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS Last Review Date: Jan 25, 2017

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View Sources

Medical References

  1. Amylin Analog Treatment. Diabetes Education Online, Diabetes Teaching Center at the University of California, San Francisco. https://dtc.ucsf.edu/types-of-diabetes/type2/treatment-of-type-2-diabetes/medications-and-therapies/...
  2. Incretin based treatments. Diabetes Education Online, Diabetes Teaching Center at the University of California, San Francisco. https://dtc.ucsf.edu/types-of-diabetes/type2/treatment-of-type-2-diabetes/medications-and-therapies/type-2-non-insulin-therapies/incretin-based-treatments/
  3. Other Injectable Medications. American Diabetes Association. http://www.diabetes.org/living-with-diabetes/treatment-and-care/medication/insulin/other-injectable-...
  4. Pramlintide injection. MedlinePlus, U.S. National Library of Medicine. https://medlineplus.gov/druginfo/meds/a605031.html
  5. Exenatide injection. MedlinePlus. https://medlineplus.gov/druginfo/meds/a605034.html
  6. Liraglutide injection. MedlinePlus, U.S. National Library of Medicine. https://medlineplus.gov/druginfo/meds/a611003.html
  7. FDA Approves Trulicity to Treat Type 2 Diabetes. U.S. Food and Drug Administration. https://www.fda.gov/NewsEvents/Newsroom/PressAnnouncements/ucm415180.htm

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