Selecting GLP-1 agonists in the management of type 2 diabetes: differential pharmacology and therapeutic benefits of liraglutide and exenatide
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Failure of secretion of the incretin hormone glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1) plays a prominent role in type 2 diabetes, and restoration of GLP-1 action is an important therapeutic objective. Although the short duration of action of GLP-1 renders it unsuited to therapeutic use, 2 long-acting GLP-1 receptor agonists, exenatide and liraglutide, represent a significant advance in treatment. In controlled trials, both produce short-term glucose-lowering effects, with the reduction in hemoglobin A(1c) of up to 1.3%. These responses are often superior to those observed with additional oral agents. However, unlike sulfonylureas, thiazolidinediones, or insulin, all of which lead to significant weight gain, GLP-1 receptor agonists uniquely result in long-term weight loss of around 5 kg, and higher doses may enhance this further. Reduction in blood pressure of 2-7 mm Hg also has been observed. Both drugs produce transient mild gastrointestinal side effects; although mild hypoglycemia can occur, this is usually in combination with other hypoglycemic therapies. However, serious hypoglycemia and acute pancreatitis are rare. The once-daily dosage of liraglutide makes it more convenient than twice-daily dosage of prandial exenatide, and a superior glucose-lowering effect was observed in the only head-to-head comparison reported so far. Besides cost, these considerations currently favor liraglutide over exenatide. Further studies are needed to confirm long-term safety, and most importantly, that short-term benefits translate into long-term reductions of diabetes-related cardiovascular events and other complications.
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