Exenatide: new drug. Type 2 diabetes for some overweight patients

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Prescrire International 2007, 16 (92): 228-31
(1) When type 2 diabetes is inadequately controlled with oral antidiabetic therapy, one option is to add subcutaneous insulin injections (or to accept less stringent glycaemic control). However, since the effects of adding insulin have only been evaluated in the short-term, effects on long-term clinical outcomes remain unknown. (2) Exenatide, a drug belonging to a new pharmacological class (incretin analogues), is marketed as a subcutaneously administered adjunct to inadequately effective oral antidiabetic therapy in adults with type 2 diabetes. (3) Three placebo-controlled trials lasting 7 months showed that adding exenatide to metformin and/or a glucose-lowering sulphonylurea yielded an HbA1c level of 7% or less in about 40% of patients treated with exenatide 10 micrograms twice a day, versus about 10% of patients on placebo. The potential impact of exenatide on morbidity and mortality is not known. (4) In two trials versus insulin glargine and in one trial versus insulin aspart (+ isophane insulin), exenatide was as effective as the various insulins in controlling HbA1c levels. (5) During clinical trials, patients receiving exenatide lost an average of about 2 kg after 6 months, while insulin was associated with a weight gain of about 2 kg. (6) There was a similar incidence of hypoglycaemia with exenatide and insulin. In patients treated with exenatide, concomitant use of glucose-lowering sulphonylurea increases the risk of hypoglycaemia. (7) More than half of patients on exenatide experienced nausea, versus fewer than 10% of patients on insulin glargine. (8) The long-term consequences of the presence of antiexenatide antibodies on the effectiveness of treatment are not known. (9) Exenatide is administered in two subcutaneous injections a day, at fixed doses. Insulin is administered in one or several injections a day, at doses adjusted to self-monitored blood glucose levels. (10) Adding insulin rather than exenatide is a better option in general when oral antidiabetic therapy fails in patients with type 2 diabetes, as we have more experience with insulin and there is no evidence of important advantages with exenatide. The latter should be reserved for situations in which weight gain is a major problem.

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