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Once-a-Week Diabetes Medications Yield Similar Results, Study Finds

Update Date: Dec 08, 2015 10:41 AM EST

When it comes to once-a-week medication options for diabetes, there is no one clear winner in terms of effectiveness and safety, a new study concluded.

"The main message is that today several drugs are available for the control of hyperglycemia in type 2 diabetes, as never before," said Dr. Francesco Zaccardi, of the Diabetes Research Center at Leicester General Hospital in the United Kingdom. "Therefore, it is even more important to know differences and similarities among drugs."

For this study, the researchers analyzed existing evidence from 34 drug trials to compare five once-a-week drugs. Three of the drugs (Dulaglutide, sold as Trulicity, exenatide, sold as Byetta, and albiglutide, sold as Tanzeum) were already on the market and the two remaining (taspoglutide and semaglutide) were still in the development stages.

There were a total of 21,126 participants who took one of the five glucagon-like peptide-1 receptor agonists (GLP-1RAs) mentioned above. The American Diabetes Association and the European Association for the Study of Diabetes recommend GLP-1RAs to diabetics who did not benefit from taking metformin and/or making other lifestyle changes.

The team found that all five drugs yielded similar results when it came to lowering blood sugar levels and risks factors for cardiovascular disease, which included cholesterol, blood pressure and inflammation. The researchers noted that the risk of hypoglycemia, which occurs when blood sugar drops to a dangerously low level, was about the same for all five GLP-1RAs.

The team did find some small differences between the drugs. Dulaglutide, exenatide and taspoglutide led to greater weight loss and a lower HbA1c, which is the measurement of the average blood sugar levels over the time span of three months.

"The weight loss is instructive because a lot of people hear stories of people losing a lot of weight, but the mean weight loss is modest," Dr. Sethu Reddy, chief of the Adult Diabetes Section at the Joslin Diabetes Center in Boston explained, reported by FOX News.

In terms of health risks and side effects, people taking taspoglutide were the most likely to experience nausea. People taking exenatide were more likely to have increased heart rate when compared to albiglutide and dulaglutide The researchers believe that more studies comparing these drugs could benefit diabetic patients in deciding which drug to take.

The study was published in the Annals of Internal Medicine.

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