Exploring the Different GLP-1 Drugs: Which One is Right for You?

Different GLP-1 drugs possess distinct characteristics, including varying dosage forms (injection or oral), frequency of dosing (daily, twice daily, or weekly), potential side effects, effectiveness, and cost. Understanding the various GLP-1 drug options available is crucial in finding the right medication for your needs. In this article, we will delve into the purpose of GLP-1 agonists, provide a comprehensive list of available GLP-1 drugs, and help you determine which ones are approved for weight loss and suitable for your specific requirements.

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Glucagon-like peptide-1 drugs, also known as GLP-1 agonists, are a type of medication used for managing type 2 diabetes and obesity.

By mimicking the functions of the natural GLP-1 hormone in the body, GLP-1 drugs stimulate insulin production and inhibit the secretion of glucagon, thus helping to maintain stable blood sugar levels and reduce the risk of hypoglycemia.

Different GLP-1 drugs possess distinct characteristics, including varying dosage forms (injection or oral), frequency of dosing (daily, twice daily, or weekly), potential side effects, effectiveness, and cost. Understanding the various GLP-1 drug options available is crucial in finding the right medication for your needs. In this article, we will delve into the purpose of GLP-1 agonists, provide a comprehensive list of available GLP-1 drugs, and help you determine which ones are approved for weight loss and suitable for your specific requirements.

What is GLP-1?

GLP-1, short for glucagon-like peptide-1, is a type of incretin hormone produced in the gut in response to food intake. It is a naturally occurring hormone in the body and plays a crucial role in the regulation of glucose metabolism. GLP-1 is involved in maintaining glucose homeostasis and has garnered significant attention in the field of diabetes management.

Role of GLP-1 in the Body

GLP-1 has several important functions within the human body, contributing to its potential therapeutic benefits in managing type 2 diabetes and obesity:

1. Insulin Secretion: GLP-1 stimulates insulin secretion from the pancreas when blood glucose levels are high. Insulin facilitates the uptake of glucose from the bloodstream into cells, thereby reducing blood glucose levels. By enhancing insulin release, GLP-1 helps to control blood sugar levels and prevent hyperglycemia.

2. Inhibition of Glucagon: Another significant role of GLP-1 is inhibiting the secretion of glucagon. Glucagon is a hormone that raises blood glucose levels by promoting glucose production in the liver. GLP-1 counteracts the effects of glucagon, preventing excessive glucose production and reducing the risk of hyperglycemia.

3. Slowing of Gastric Emptying: GLP-1 slows down the rate at which the stomach empties after meals. This mechanism helps to moderate the rise in blood glucose following meals, preventing spikes in sugar levels. Additionally, the delayed gastric emptying caused by GLP-1 promotes a feeling of fullness, which can aid in reducing food intake and supporting weight loss efforts.

What are GLP-1 Receptor Agonists Prescribed for?

GLP-1 receptor agonists are commonly prescribed for two main conditions: type 2 diabetes and obesity.

Type 2 Diabetes: Type 2 diabetes is a chronic condition characterized by high blood sugar levels resulting from insulin resistance and/or inadequate insulin production by the pancreas. GLP-1 agonists are often prescribed for individuals with type 2 diabetes to help manage their blood sugar levels and prevent complications associated with high blood sugar.

GLP-1 agonists work by stimulating insulin secretion from the pancreas, which enhances the uptake of glucose by cells, thereby reducing blood glucose levels. Additionally, they inhibit the secretion of glucagon, which helps prevent the liver from producing excessive glucose. These actions of GLP-1 agonists promote better blood sugar control and reduce the risk of hyperglycemia. Moreover, GLP-1 agonists have been shown to contribute to weight loss, making them an attractive option for individuals with type 2 diabetes who may also struggle with excess weight.

Obesity: Obesity is a chronic condition characterized by an excessive accumulation of body fat. It often leads to other health complications, including heart disease, high blood pressure, and type 2 diabetes. GLP-1 agonists are prescribed for weight management in individuals with obesity due to their ability to promote a feeling of fullness and slow down gastric emptying, resulting in reduced overall calorie intake.

GLP-1 agonists act on specific receptors in the brain, triggering the release of hormones that regulate appetite and satiety. By mimicking the actions of GLP-1, GLP-1 agonists help individuals feel satisfied with smaller portions of food and experience a reduced desire to eat, contributing to weight loss efforts. This effect, combined with the potential benefits of GLP-1 agonists in improving blood sugar control, makes them a valuable therapeutic option for individuals with obesity and its associated health risks.

It's important to note that the use of GLP-1 agonists for obesity management is recommended  in combination with lifestyle changes, including a healthy diet and increased physical activity. These medications provide an additional tool to support weight loss efforts and improve overall metabolic health.

How Do GLP-1 Receptor Agonists Work?


GLP-1 receptor agonists mimick the actions of the natural GLP-1 hormone in the body. These medications activate GLP-1 receptors, which are present on various cells, including those in the pancreas, brain, and gastrointestinal tract.

When GLP-1 agonists activate GLP-1 receptors, they have several important effects. They stimulate insulin secretion from the pancreas, promoting the uptake of glucose by cells and reducing blood sugar levels. Additionally, GLP-1 agonists inhibit the release of glucagon, which prevents the liver from producing excessive glucose. This combination of increased insulin secretion and decreased glucagon release helps to maintain more stable blood sugar levels, contributing to improved glycemic control.

GLP-1 agonists also slow down gastric emptying, which moderates the rise in blood glucose following meals. This effect can be particularly beneficial for individuals with type 2 diabetes who experience post-meal hyperglycemia. Furthermore, GLP-1 agonists promote a feeling of fullness, reducing appetite and overall calorie intake. By helping individuals with type 2 diabetes achieve weight loss, GLP-1 agonists offer additional metabolic benefits.

A Complete List of GLP-1 Antagonists (Diabetes Drugs)

Numerous GLP-1 agonists have received approval from the FDA for the treatment of type 2 diabetes and, in some cases, obesity. These medications vary in terms of dosing frequency, side effects, efficacy, and cost. Below is a comprehensive list of available GLP-1 drugs:

  • Adlyxin® (lixisenatide)
  • Bydureon BCise® (exenatide extended-release)
  • Byetta® (exenatide)
  • Mounjaro® (tirzepatide)*
  • Ozempic® (semaglutide)
  • Rybelsus® (oral semaglutide)
  • Saxenda® (liraglutide)
  • Trulicity® (dulaglutide)
  • Victoza® (liraglutide)
  • Wegovy® (semaglutide)

*This medication is a GLP/GIP dual agonist (not just a GLP-1)

These GLP-1 agonists are available in different dosage forms, such as subcutaneous injections and oral formulations. They have been approved for various uses, including the treatment of type 2 diabetes and, in the case of semaglutide, for chronic weight management.

While all GLP-1 agonists share the common goal of lowering blood glucose levels and aiding in weight management, there are some differences among them. These differences can include dosing frequency, specific side effects, efficacy in blood sugar control and weight loss, and cost. It's important to consult with your healthcare provider to determine which GLP-1 agonist is most suitable for your needs.

Medication Name
Victoza
Saxenda
Trulicity
Ozempic
Wegovy
Rybelsus
Mounjaro
Zonegran
Wellbutrin
Contrave
Topamax
Qsymia
Alli
Generic Name
Liraglutide
Liraglutide
Dulaglutide
Semaglutide
Semaglutide
Semaglutide
Tirzepatide
Zonisamide
Bupropion
Naltrexone/bupropion
Topiramate
Phentermine / Topiramate
Orlistat
FDA Approved For Weight Loss?
No
Yes
No
No
Yes
No
No
No
No
Yes
No
Yes
Yes
How it's taken
Injection once daily
Injection once daily
Injection once weekly
Injection once weekly
Injection once weekly
Oral tablet
Injection once weekly
Oral tablet
Oral tablet
Oral tablet
Oral tablet
Oral tablet
Oral capsule
Potential Side Effects
Nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, constipation, stomach pain, headache, dizziness, fatigue, acid reflux
Nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, constipation, stomach pain, headache, dizziness, fatigue, acid reflux
Nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, constipation, stomach pain, headache, dizziness, fatigue, acid reflux
Nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, constipation, stomach pain, headache, dizziness, fatigue, acid reflux
Nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, constipation, stomach pain, headache, dizziness, fatigue, acid reflux
Diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, constipation, stomach pain, headache, dizziness, acid reflux
Diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, constipation, stomach pain, headache, dizziness, acid reflux
Dizziness, drowsiness, headache, trouble concentrating, trouble sleeping
Insomnia, dry mouth, anxiety, and increased heart rate
Nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, constipation, headache, dizziness, fatigue
Dizziness, drowsiness, tingling in the hands and feet, trouble concentrating, fatigue, dysgeusia
Dry mouth, constipation,, tingling in the hands and feet, trouble concentrating, trouble sleeping
Diarrhea, oily spotting, fecal incontinence, and increased bowel movements

Which GLP-1 Drugs are Approved for Weight Loss?

Currently, two GLP-1 drugs have been specifically approved by the FDA for weight loss treatment:

  1. Liraglutide (Saxenda): Originally approved for the treatment of type 2 diabetes under the brand name Victoza®, liraglutide at a higher dose has been approved as Saxenda for chronic weight management. It is self-administered once daily via subcutaneous injection.

  2. Semaglutide (Wegovy): Originally approved for the treatment of type 2 diabetes under the brand name Ozempic®, semaglutide at a higher dose has received FDA approval as Wegovy for chronic weight management. It is also administered via subcutaneous injection, but is once weekly.

It is important to note that while these two GLP-1 drugs are specifically approved for weight loss, other GLP-1 agonists may also lead to weight loss as a secondary effect, but they are not specifically indicated for weight management.

Studies have shown that both liraglutide (Saxenda) and semaglutide (Wegovy) can be effective in promoting weight loss when combined with a reduced-calorie diet and increased physical activity. However, it's crucial to understand that these medications come with potential side effects.

Common side effects of GLP-1 drugs for weight loss include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and constipation. These side effects are generally mild to moderate and tend to improve over time. If you are considering these medications, it’s important to have an open conversation with your healthcare provider to understand the potential risks and benefits.

Conclusion

In conclusion, GLP-1 drugs are valuable medications prescribed primarily for the management of type 2 diabetes and obesity. For individuals looking to manage their weight, liraglutide (Saxenda) and semaglutide (Wegovy) are specifically approved by the FDA for weight loss treatment. However, other GLP-1 drugs may also contribute to weight loss as a secondary effect.

When selecting a GLP-1 drug, it is crucial to consult with your healthcare provider. This decision should be made collaboratively, taking into account your unique health situation, lifestyle, and preferences. Being well-informed about different treatment options and relying on professional medical advice is vital for making the best decisions regarding your health. 

Although managing conditions like type 2 diabetes and obesity can present challenges, the right choice of a GLP-1 drug can significantly improve your health outcomes and enhance your overall well-being. Reach out to your healthcare provider, explore our available resources, and stay empowered in managing your health.

Doctor-led & Individualized
GLP-1 Weight Loss Medication
Take the Quiz

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