Getting the Right Diabetes Treatment

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Non-Insulin Injectables and Weight Loss

Medically Reviewed By William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
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Some diabetes medications have the additional benefit of helping you lose weight. That is the case for some people who take non-insulin injectable medications.

Older African American woman smiling on scale as doctor or nurse checks weight
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Losing weight may be beneficial for some people who have diabetes. Indeed, maintaining a moderate weight will go a long way to help keep blood sugar levels under control.

However, sometimes it’s not enough to watch what you eat and go to the gym. You may need to take a medication — or maybe even a combination of medications — in order to reach a moderate weight.

Some medications may help you get your blood sugar under control, with the added benefit of helping you reach a moderate weight. Other medications help you lose weight, which can help you manage your blood sugar levels. Depending on your situation, a non-insulin injectable treatment might be a great option for you — one that helps you achieve your goals.

Certain diabetes drugs may help you lose weight

Sometimes diabetes medications have an additional benefit of aiding you in your goal to lose weight. That’s the case for many people with diabetes who take a type of non-insulin injectable medication called glucagon-like peptide-1 analogues, also known as GLP-1 receptor agonists.

How GLP-1s work

GLP-1 receptor agonists work by stimulating insulin production while suppressing the liver’s production of glucose. The goal is to keep your blood sugar from staying high after you eat a meal. These medications are one of two types of incretin-based treatments that are designed to help bring your blood sugar levels down after eating. The second category of medications that can help with weight loss are DPP-4 inhibitors. These are oral medications.

Brands of GLP-1 medications

Below is a list of commonly prescribed GLP-1 medications:

  • Adlixyn (lixisenatide): injected daily at mealtime
  • Byetta (exenatide): an injectable medication
  • Mounjaro (tirzepatide): a newer, once-weekly injection
  • Ozempic (semaglutide): available as a weekly injection
  • Trulicity (dulaglutide): available as a weekly injection
  • Victoza (liraglutide): often prescribed to help get blood sugar under control

Of course, consistently managing your blood sugar level is of utmost importance. However, these meds have a welcome secondary benefit. Liraglutide is known for curbing your appetite, since it tends to slow the digestion process down. Exenatide also helps you feel full by delaying the process by which your stomach is emptied. If you’re trying to maintain a moderate weight, it’s nice to have your medications working with you. And you might also realize you’ve reached your weight goal while taking dulaglutide, semaglutide, or tirzepatide.

Medications for people who also take insulin

A second category of non-insulin injectable medication, amylin analogues, is one used by people with type 2 diabetes who must also give themselves insulin injections. Symlin (pramlintide) is designed to help you manage your blood sugar levels. However, like GLP-1 receptor agonists, it can also help you reach a moderate weight. It works by keeping you feeling full longer.

When the main goal is to reach a moderate weight

There’s also a form of the GLP-1 receptor agonist liraglutide that is used primarily to help people lose weight — not as a diabetes treatment. A version of liraglutide called Saxenda was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as a weight-loss drug in late 2014, and a version of semaglutide called Wegovy was approved by the FDA in 2021 for the same indication.

However, since the FDA noted that the primary purpose for the drugs was to aid in weight loss, not to treat type 2 diabetes, you can talk with your doctor about whether this is the right kind of medication for you.

The bottom line

Non-insulin injectable diabetes treatments are not for everyone, but they do work very well for many people. Recent advances in medication injection devices make drug administration virtually painless. If you’re interested in trying them to help you lose weight but are concerned about giving yourself an injection on a regular basis, talk to your doctor about ways to minimize the anxiety and hassle.

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Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
Last Review Date: 2022 Sep 20
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