written by Michael O’Leary

If like many people, a component of your type 2 diabetes is being overweight, the new class of drugs, called GLP-1 agonists, may help you lose more weight than older oral drugs for controlling blood sugar.

That’s the conclusion of a new study that analyzed the data from 25 trials involving 6,411 patients conducted over the last seven years.  The first GLP-1 drug to receive FDA approval was Byetta®, which is injected twice daily into the abdomen, thigh or shoulder an hour before breakfast and dinner. Victoza® is a long-acting GLP-1 agonist injected once daily. Bydureon® is a once-a-week injection formula of Byetta.

In the study, the researchers led by Dr. Tina Vilsboll of the University of Copenhagen, Denmark, found that all participants in the 25 studies, whether or not they had diabetes, lost more weight if they received the GLP-1 drug compared to participants who took either another blood glucose-lowering drug or a placebo. They published their results in the Jan. 12. British Medical Journal.

They wrote in their article that, “Our results suggest that treatment with GLP-1 agonists is an effective intervention for participants who are overweight, irrespective of whether they have diabetes.”

They included only trials that compared taking a drug to not taking a drug over a minimum of 20 weeks. Overall the combined data results showed that participants who took GLP-1 agonists lost an average of 6.4 more pounds than participants taking a placebo. In addition, they found that a greater weight loss was associated with a higher dose of the GLP-1 agonist.

Diabetics who took GLP-1 lost an average of 6.2 pounds more than those on placebo and non-diabetics in GLP-1 groups lost an average of 7 more pounds than those on placebo. However, there were no differences in weight loss between those taking Byetta or Victoza. Both drugs were also more effective than no drug for lowering blood pressure and cholesterol.

The most common side effects with Victoza® include headache, nausea, and diarrhea. Nausea is most common when first starting Victoza®, but decreases over time in most people. Immune system–related reactions, including hives, were more common in people treated with Victoza®, compared to people treated with other diabetes drugs in medical studies. The most common side effects of Byetta include nausea that affected about 44 percent of people in studies. Other common effects include low blood sugar (hypoglycemia), vomiting, diarrhea, jitters, dizziness, headache and upset stomach.

While these trials show weight-loss may be an added benefit of GLP-1 agonists for patients with type 2 diabetes, the researchers caution, however, that there still isn’t enough evidence to suggest that these drugs should be taken specifically for weight loss in people without type 2 diabetes.