Byetta, also known as exenatide , is a medication intended to help control blood glucose levels in type 2 diabetics. Part of a class of medications known as “incretin mimetics,” it works by aiding the pancreas in producing insulin more efficiently; however, it has also been linked to the painful inflammation of that same organ.
The Byetta drug is actually a synthetic version of a hormone found in the saliva of the Gila monster, a variety of venomous lizard that lives in the southwestern United States and northern Mexico. The effectiveness is attributed to the fact that the lizard’s hormone is 50% similar to glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1), a hormone that is found in the human digestive track and which increase insulin production when blood sugar levels become too high. Because the lizard version remains effective for much longer than the one in our own bodies, this synthetic formulation has proven useful for diabetics. Due to this interesting history, some people referred to Byetta medication as “lizard spit.”
There are several different ways that Byetta insulin and blood glucose control works in the body:
• Augmenting pancreas response after meals
• Suppressing pancreatic release of glucagon while eating
• Slowing down gastric emptying
• Reducing appetite by promoting satiety via hypothalamic receptors
• Reducing liver fat content
A Byetta injection is typically given under the skin. A doctor or pharmacist can provide specific instructions as to how and where to use the Byetta pen (usually in the upper thigh, stomach, or upper arm). There are also a number of precautions that patients should keep in mind after receiving a prescription:
• Use it exactly as prescribed, following the directions on the label
• Do not use in larger amounts or for a longer time period than recommended
• Do not administer immediately after eating a meal
• Never share the pen with another person
• Check your blood sugar levels regularly
• Use for no more than 30 days, and then discard
• Avoid drinking alcohol while taking this medicine
• Inform your doctor of all other drugs that you are using, including over-the-counter vitamins or minerals
For those taking Byetta, diabetes health is obviously very important. However, this medicine may cause other kinds of health problems. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a warning about potential dangers in 2007, after there were 30 reported cases of pancreatitis. The findings noted these troubling trends about these cases:
• Symptoms worsened when the dose was increased
• 21 of the victims were hospitalized
• 5 of them developed more severe complications such as dehydration, kidney failure , and intestinal obstruction
• 22 reported improvement after they stopped taking the drug
The potential link between Byetta and pancreatitis is causing a great deal of concern among patients. This is a serious disease that varies in severity, but most often requires hospitalization for treatment, including pain management and fluid and electrolyte stabilization. Surgery or other invasive measures may even be necessary in some cases. Additionally, complications often develop, such as:
• Hypocalcemia (low calcium)
• High blood glucose
• Kidney failure
• Respiratory complications
• Systemic inflammatory response syndrome (SIRS)
• Infection of the organ bed
• Pseudocysts that can become infected and hemorrhage.
Though the FDA does not recommend that anyone discontinue a medication without consulting with a doctor, anyone who experiences symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain, and increased heart rate while taking it should immediately seek medical attention. Additionally, less serious Byetta side effects may include:
• Loss of appetite
• Weight loss
• Feeling jittery
Despite these potential adverse effects, some are even taking the drug for off-label uses, including as a diet aid. There has been one study that considered how the drug might help obese non-diabetics drop pounds. In concordance with a diet and exercise program, those taking a Byetta dose (as opposed to those given a placebo) did lose more. One theory as to how this works is that the medicine causes people to eat less and increases feelings of fullness.
However, despite this possible benefit, medical professionals stress that the drug has not been approved as a diet aid. Though the experiment above shows progress in this area, it has not yet been determined that it is safe for use in those who do not suffer from diabetes, despite the possibility of Byetta weight loss.
Patients should always consult with a doctor before discontinuing any medication. However, if you were hospitalized after using this medication, you may want to seek legal advice as well. There are already lawsuits pending against the manufacturers, claiming that they failed to adequately warn about these potential risks. Byetta attorney s can assist anyone interested in seeking compensation for the costs associated with healthcare, lost wages, and general pain and suffering.