Exanatide: A Novel Treatment for Diabetes

The American Diabetes Association estimates that over 18 million Americans have diabetes, and over 90% of these have Type 2 Diabetes. Type 2 Diabetes is due to decreased insulin production and resistance to insulin. Oral medications are among the most common treatments for this diabetes type and include: metformin (Glucophage®), glipzide (Glucotrol®), pioglitazone (Actos®), rosaglitazone (Avandia®) and others. Even with many medication options, some patients fail to maintain blood sugar control. Exanatide (Byetta®) was recently approved by the Food and Drug Administration for treatment of Type 2 Diabetes in patients who are already on an oral diabetes medication but have not reached goal blood sugars. Interestingly, this drug is secreted in the saliva of a lizard know as the Gila monster, and works by increasing insulin production. Additionally, it causes suppression of glucose (sugar) secretion, reduction of food intake, and slowing of stomach emptying. The product comes in pre-filled syringes and is injected under the skin twice daily. Similar products are currently under investigation.