Insulin Add-Ons: Benefits and Popular GLP-1 Agonists

Oftentimes, unpleasant side effects of insulin treatment can result in weight gain and the occasional hypoglycemia bout. Those who are pre-diabetic or have type 2 diabetes might find treatment that incorporates insulin add-on medications can make handling the disease and their weight more manageable. Insulin add-ons are typically injections incorporated into already existing therapy. This is to make the process more effective, as well as reduce the side effects that come with it.

What Are Some Common Add-ons?

Some common insulin add-ons are glucagon-like peptide-1 receptor agonists, or GLP-1 receptor agonists. Six GLP-1 agonists are approved for treatment of type 2 diabetes in adults. Pre-diabetics who are overweight or considered to be obese might also use these in conjunction with exercise and diet regimens to lose weight and keep it off for good.

Approved GLP-1 Agonists

Exenatid, aka Byetta and Bydureon

Exenatid (brand names Byetta and Bydureon) is an glucagon-like peptide-1 agonist the FDA approved in 2005 and 2012, respectively. This medication essentially tells the pancreas to excrete insulin when the body has a high blood sugar level. Exenatide is not effective for type 1 diabetics because their bodies produce no insulin at all. By contrast, type-2 diabetics have an inability to use the insulin it produces correctly. Exenatide is known to cause a significant decrease in appetite and slower digestion rates.

Liraglutide, aka Victoza and Saxenda

Liraglutide (brand names Victoza and Saxenda) is a GLP-1 agonist the FDA approved in 2010. It regulates the pancreas action of insulin secretion when blood sugar levels are too high. Liraglutide is also utilized to lower stroke, heart attack, and death risks in adults with type 2 diabetes. Liraglutide can also be used to help overweight or obese people lose weight and keep it off in combination with an exercise and diet plan. It may cause a decrease in appetite and a slower digestion rate.

Lixisenatide, aka Lyxumia

The FDA approved Lixisenatide (name brand Lyxumia) for use in 2016. It is utilized to treat patients with type 2 diabetes when added to a diet and exercise regimen. It is not used in the place of insulin to treat type 2 diabetes, but rather to help regulate the excretion of insulin (making it an incretin memetic). Similar to other incretin mimetics, this medication also causes an appetite decrease and the stomach to empty at a slower rate than normal.

Albiglutide or Tanzeum

The FDA approved Albiglutide (name brand Tanzeum) in 2014. Used with an exercise regimen and dieting system, this medication can help treat type 2 diabetic patients as well as overweight and obese pre-diabetic patients. It can cause an appetite decrease, as well as a lower rate of digestion in the stomach.

Dulaglutide, or Trulicity

The FDA approved Dulaglutide (name brand Trulicity) in 2014. This medication works by causing the liver to decrease sugar production in addition to moderating insulin excretion according to high sugar levels. It is not to be used in the place of traditional insulin treatment for diabetics. Rather, it is used in conjunction with pre-existing insulin treatment to achieve better results.


Semaglutide (name brand Ozempic) has been FDA-approved since 2017. This medication can help type-2 diabetics lose weight and regulate blood sugar levels through moderation of insulin excretion with high blood sugar levels. Often known to decrease appetite, it is used to supplement, not replace, a healthy exercise and diet plan.

Final Thoughts

Years of data collection and research show that insulin, in combination with diet and exercise plans, may not fully manage diabetes for some patients. The FDA approval of a handful of GLP-1 agonists opens new doors for pre-diabetics and type-2 diabetics to help manage weight issues and to regulate blood sugar levels. None of these medications, however, should replace insulin treatments, as this substitution can be dangerous. Patients should only use these medications in addition to pre-existing diet systems and exercise routines for healthy weight loss.

Disclaimer: This article should not replace the advice of a licensed medical professional.

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