Byetta or exenatide is a drug approved for use as an adjunct therapy (backup
or additional treatment) for type II (adult-onset) diabetes. The official
prescribing guidlines are very specific and read that Byetta is approved "as
adjunctive therapy to improve glycemic control in patients with type 2
diabetes mellitus who are taking metformin, a biguanide, or a combination of
metformin and a sulfonylurea but have not achieved adequate glycemic
control." In plain English, this means that Byetta is not approved to treat
diabetes by itself alone.

Lizard Spit
Byetta is a very small protein
that acts as a hormone and,
oddly, was first identified in the
saliva of Gila monsters. This has
led to Byetta being reffered to
as "lizard spit" which is, of
course, innacurate as the
pharmaceutical product is
entirely synthesized chemically
and has never come near a
lizard. Still, it was discovered in
these beasts.
A Gila Monster
Weight Loss Side Effect
Many but not all people who use Byetta to control type 2 diabetes
experience weight loss. In some cases the weight loss is substantial. Since
weight loss nearly always improves the symptoms of type 2 diabetes, this
gives Byetta a 'double whammy' where it directly improves diabetes and also
indirectly improves it throught weight reduction.
Problems with Byetta
Byetta has several major drawbacks. First, it must be injected, and twice
daily. Second, nearly half of patients using it report nausea, at least
initially. Third, it is very expensive so that patients without medical
insurance can rarely afford it.
Future Research
A long-acting (once per week) injection-form of byetta is currently
undergoing clinical trials in the US. Initial results are very promising,
showing improved control of type 2 diabetes and improved weight loss.
Other research is exploring the possibility of using viruses to splice byetta
DNA into human cells with the hope that one day such a virus could be
used to turn a small number of cells in a diabetic person into 'factories'
that produce Byetta normally.
Exenatide (Byetta)
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