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How Diabetes Drug Liraglutide May Affect Your Heart


The diabetes drug liraglutide (Victoza; Novo Nordisk) appears to provide various heart benefits that could also be helpful for people who have diabetes. The advantages are evident when the medication is used along with exercise and diet, according to information presented at a recent joint gathering of the International Society of Endocrinology and the Endocrine Society.

What is liraglutide?
Liraglutide is an injectable prescription drug that can be used by individuals with type 2 diabetes along with diet and exercise for management of the disease. This drug is not recommended as a first choice for type 2 diabetes and is not indicated for children or for anyone who has pancreatitis or diabetic ketoacidosis.

This diabetes drug is designed to help manage blood glucose and hemoglobin A1c levels. According to the manufacturer, it may help with weight loss even though it was not specifically made to do so.

Litaglutide is very similar to GLP-1, which is a hormone produced by the body that helps reduce blood sugar levels. Therefore, the drug helps make more insulin available for your body when it is needed. Litaglutide does this by assisting the beta cells (which produce insulin in the pancreas) make more insulin when blood glucose levels are high.

Litaglutide can be taken alone or along with one or more other oral drugs for type 2 diabetes. It also can be taken along with long-acting insulin.

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New litaglutide meta-analysis
Results of the new meta-analysis are via data collected from 3,713 overweight and obese nondiabetic adults who had at least one additional risk factor for heart disease or diabetes (e.g., high cholesterol, hypertension, prediabetes). As part of the double-blind study, all the participants consumed 500 fewer calories per day than usual, exercised, and were given either a daily injection of liraglutide (3 mg to 2,487 individuals) or a placebo (1,244 participants) for 56 weeks.

What did the researchers observe?

  • Individuals who took liraglutide lost 5.4 percent more body weight (8% of body weight) than did those who took a placebo, even though this drug has not been approved for weight loss
  • Liraglutide users also lost nearly 1.7 more inches around their waistline than did those who took placebo
  • Both blood pressure and lipid levels (LDL, HDL, total, and triglycerides) improved better in the liraglutide group than in the placebo group, which ultimately resulted in a greater reduction in the use of drugs used to treat high blood pressure and high cholesterol
  • The safety profile for liraglutide in this population of nondiabetics was similar to that of people with type 2 diabetes who were given doses less than 3 mg daily.

The bottom line, according to Carel Le Roux, MD, PhD, of the Diabetes Complications Research Centre, University College Dublin, and one of the study’s authors, appears to be that use of the medication may result in a reduced risk of heart disease in people who are obese and who are dealing with obesity-related conditions such as type 2 diabetes.

Liraglutide for type 2 diabetes
Currently liraglutide is prescribed at 1.2 mg and 1.8 mg injectable doses for adults who have type 2 diabetes. However, it is being tested at a dose of 3 mg for long-term management of weight as part of the Satiety and Clinical Adiposity-Liraglutide Evidence in Nondiabetic and Diabetic Subjects (SCALE) trial.

According to the manufacturer, animal studies have indicated that liraglutide may cause thyroid tumors and thyroid cancer in animals. For now, the impact of the drug on the thyroid in humans is not known. As a precaution, anyone who has a family history of medullary thyroid cancer or multiple endocrine neoplasia syndrome type 2 should not take liraglutide.

Endocrine Society
Victoza website

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