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New Diabetes Drug Comes From Lizard

Gila monster derivative helps manage blood sugar

FRIDAY, April 29, 2005 (HealthDay News) -- A drug derived from the saliva of the Gila monster lizard was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration on Friday as a way for type 2 diabetics to better control their blood sugar levels.

Byetta (exenatide) is the first among a new class of diabetes drugs called incretin mimetics -- synthetic medications that mimic action of a hormone that spurs insulin production after a person eats and blood sugar levels rise above a certain threshold. Traditional diabetes drugs that promote insulin production do so even if glucose levels aren't high enough, which could cause a dangerous low blood-sugar condition called hypoglycemia.

Byetta, derived from the lizard's saliva, mimics that action of the human hormone GLP-1, which prompts the body to secrete insulin and is also thought to play a role in deciding when a person feels full.

In a statement, makers Amylin Pharmaceuticals and Eli Lilly & Co. said the drug was initially approved to be used in combination with older oral medications that control diabetes. They said they soon expect to apply for FDA approval of Byetta as a stand-alone treatment.

Common side effects of the drug were nausea and decreased appetite. The companies said Byetta should be available in pharmacies by June 1.

To learn more, visit the Byetta Web site.

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