Frequently Asked Questions About Non-Insulin Injectables


Adrian Vella, MD

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1. Q: What are non-insulin injectable treatments for diabetes?

A: There are two classes of drugs that are approved by the Federal Drug Administration (FDA) for type 2 diabetes that are considered non-insulin injectables: Glucagon-like peptide 1 (GLP-1) receptor agonists and amylin analogs. GLP-1 receptor agonists work by mimicking that activity of the naturally-occurring GLP-1 hormone, which stimulates the production of insulin.

Amylin analogs mimic the behavior of another hormone that’s essential in controlling blood sugar levels: amylin. Amylin, like insulin, is released by your pancreas after you eat. People with type 2 diabetes tend to have lower levels of amylin, so amylin analogs are meant to act as the missing hormone – lowering blood sugar, slowing the speed at which food empties from the stomach, and as an added benefit, suppressing appetite.

2. Q: What is GLP-1 therapy for diabetes?

A: Glucagon-like peptide 1 (GLP-1) based diabetes therapy is a type of injectable treatment used by people with type 2 diabetes to stimulate the secretion of insulin, the hormone that keeps your blood sugar from getting too high. While insulin injections replace the insulin your pancreas fails to make, GLP-1 stimulates insulin production if you’re someone who has trouble producing enough of it to keep their blood sugar in check.

Humans naturally produce the GLP-1 hormone in the small intestine. After we eat, the intestine signals the pancreas to make more insulin. GLP-1 likely doesn’t have much of an effect on the average person because it’s degraded, or broken down within two minutes in the human body. But when the GLP-1 hormone is modified so that it doesn’t degrade, as it is with GLP-1 based therapies, it lasts for hours, and becomes a very powerful stimulus of insulin secretion.

Managing diabetes goes beyond focusing on blood sugar levels—you’ve got to commit to living a healthy life, staying active, eating well, and minimizing stress. Follow these tips to get on the right path.

Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS Last Review Date: Apr 18, 2017

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