Diabetes Self-Management Blog

The injectable Type 2 diabetes drug Byetta has a strong and rapid anti-inflammatory effect, according to new research from the University of Buffalo. Byetta, a member of the class of drugs known as GLP-1 agonists, has been prescribed to millions of people in the United States since its approval by the Food and Drug Administration in 2005.

Inflammation is the body’s protective response to infection and injury: When a foreign substance is detected in the body, chemicals are released to widen blood vessels, bringing extra blood, heat, and infection-fighting blood cells to the affected area. But although short-term inflammation may be protective, chronic inflammation is thought to play a role in many diseases, including heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and cancer.

Previous research at the University of Buffalo had indicated that Byetta might have anti-inflammatory properties. To determine the extent of these effects, researchers from the university randomly assigned 24 obese people with Type 2 who were using insulin to control their condition to receive either 10 micrograms of Byetta twice daily or a placebo (inactive treatment) twice daily. The study was supported by a grant from Amylin Pharmaceuticals and Eli Lilly, manufacturers of Byetta.

Among those receiving Byetta, researchers noted a rapid, dramatic anti-inflammatory effect. These participants also experienced a reduction in HbA1c (a measure of blood glucose control over the previous 2–3 months) from 8.6% to 7.4%, on average.

“Our most important finding was this rapid, anti-inflammatory effect, which may lead to the inhibition of atherosclerosis, the major cause of heart attacks, strokes, and gangrene in diabetics,” observed senior study author Paresh Dandona, MD. Heart attack and stroke are the leading causes of death for people with Type 2 diabetes. Dandona further noted that the anti-inflammatory effect occurred independently of weight loss in the study, indicating that it is a function of the drug itself, and not of weight loss resulting from taking the drug. (Fat tissue contributes to inflammation.)

According to Dandona, Byetta has one of the strongest anti-inflammatory effects of any medicine available, apart from insulin and corticosteroids. Next, the researchers plan to investigate possible uses of Byetta in situations such as the intensive care unit and following heart attacks and strokes, where a rapid anti-inflammatory effect would be beneficial.

To learn more about the research, read the article “Exenatide (Byetta) Has Rapid, Powerful Anti-Inflammatory Effect, Study Shows” or see the study’s abstract in The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism. And for more information about Byetta, click here.

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