Drug Facts: GLP-1 Receptor Agonists

Updated: Jan 9

Is it weird to say I have a favorite diabetes drug class? Well I do, and it is the GLP-1 receptor agonists! From my experience working with patients using them, they do a great job lowering blood sugars, they don't cause hypoglycemia (unless they're used with insulin or sulfonylureas), and they help with weight loss.

GLP-1s are injectable medications, but they are not insulin. Depending on what kind you’re using, you may take it once a week, once a day or twice a day. All of them are available in a pen, and some you can take using a vial and syringe. Many people shy away from these medications because they don't want to stick themselves with a needle. Just remember that the needle is very small and most people don't even feel it. If you can poke your finger to test your blood sugars, you can definitely do this!

These medications work by activating GLP-1 receptors which stimulate the secretion of insulin by the pancreas. They also decrease how much sugar the liver produces and slows down the digestion of food in your GI tract.

These drugs can assist with weight loss. This is due to its affect on digestion; GLP-1's can slow down the rate at which food passes through your stomach. Unfortunately however, this may also cause possible side effects such as nausea and vomiting.

Unlike some other medications for diabetes, GLP-1s work in a glucose-dependent fashion. This means that if blood sugars are high, the drug will work harder. Conversely, if blood sugars are low, the drug will work less. This is beneficial as they should not cause hypoglycemia.

These drugs take some time before you will see the full blood sugar lowering effect. The ones that are taken once or twice daily will start working faster. For the ones that are taken once a week, it may take two to seven weeks to see the full effect.