Byetta is a GLP-1 agonist medication prescribed to help adults with type 2 diabetes manage their blood sugar. It also helps curb appetite and aid weight loss.
The FDA has not approved Byetta specifically as a weight loss medication, but studies suggest it effectively supports weight loss in adults.
Other GLP-1 medications are available for weight loss and are often prescribed off-label.
Byetta (exenatide) is a prescription medication that helps manage blood sugar in adults with type 2 diabetes. It works by mimicking hormones in the body that increase insulin, slow digestion, and decrease glucose production in the liver.
The medication comes in injection form and is typically taken twice daily—before the two largest meals of the day. Many people who take Byetta experience weight loss when combined with a reduced-calorie diet and regular exercise.
Read on to learn more about how Byetta works for type 2 diabetes and weight loss.
Byetta for Weight Loss
Approximately 10% of people living in the United States have diabetes, and about 90–95% of those people have type 2 diabetes. Diabetes is a medical condition in which a person’s body does not produce enough insulin or their body does not respond correctly to insulin, causing their blood sugar to run high.
Having elevated blood sugar can lead to significant health problems and weight gain. While there are many effective strategies and medications that can help control blood glucose levels, weight loss is also a key factor in managing diabetes. When used correctly, Byetta can be a powerful tool for supporting weight loss and lowering risks associated with diabetes.
How Does Byetta Work?
- Increasing insulin secretion from the pancreas: Helps keep blood glucose levels in a healthy range
- Decreasing glucose production in the liver: Helps your body process sugar more efficiently
- Slowing gastric emptying: Helps you feel fuller longer, curbing your appetite and reducing the desire to binge eat
Currently, Byetta is only available as a brand-name medication. There is no generic equivalent. Byetta contains the active drug ingredient: exenatide.
Exenatide is also available in the medication Bydureon, which is an extended-release medication given as a once-weekly injection. However, this medication is usually not given as a first-line therapy because of the potential increased risk of thyroid tumors and medullary thyroid carcinoma (MTC).
Byetta is an immediate-release medication injected twice daily within 60 minutes of morning and evening meals. An alternative is to take the medication before the two main meals of the day as long as there are six or more hours between doses.
The initial dose is 5 mcg, injected twice daily for a month. After the first month, your medical provider may increase your injection dose to 10 mcg twice daily based on how you respond to the medication. The maximum dose is 10 mcg twice a day.
Effectiveness of Byetta for Weight Loss
Although Byetta is not considered a weight loss medication, studies suggest that people with type 2 diabetes who take Byetta to help manage their blood sugar tend to lose weight.
A 24-week clinical study of over 200 people saw more significant weight loss in people who took Byetta rather than the placebo. Those taking Byetta had an average weight loss of 6–6.4 pounds, while those taking the placebo lost an average of 3.3 pounds.
In a 35-week clinical study of 41 females with obesity but without diabetes, Byetta users lost an average of 5 pounds, while those taking the placebo had minimal or no weight loss. The study also noted that waist circumference also decreased in those taking Byetta.
Long-Term vs. Short-Term Use
While no studies compare the long-term vs. short-term weight loss effects of Byetta, taking the medication helps people feel less hungry throughout the day. Feeling less hungry throughout the day encourages the consumption of fewer calories. Following a reduced-calorie diet and regular exercise can help maintain long-term weight loss.
Side Effects of Byetta for Weight Loss
Like all medications, Byetta has potential side effects.
Common Side Effects
Common side effects include:
- Diarrhea or constipation
- Itching or small bump at the injection site
- Feeling jittery
- Low blood sugar
Serious Side Effects
Serious side effects may include:
- Allergic reaction, such as hives, itching, difficulty breathing, swelling of your face, lips, tongue, or throat
- Unusual bleeding or bruising
- Pancreas problems
- Kidney problems
Cost of Byetta for Weight Loss
The prices for Byetta listed online range between $837–$900, with an average of $855 for 2.4 mL. Pricing varies based on your pharmacy, location, and insurance coverage.
Byetta is a name-brand drug that typically costs more than generic versions. However, there is no generic option available at this time.
Financial and Insurance Assistance
Several Medicare and commercial insurance plans cover the cost of Byetta. To find out if your plan covers Byetta, call your insurance provider. Some plans require a pre-authorization for this medication before they will cover it.
The manufacturer of Byetta, AstraZeneca, offers a prescription savings program on their website. To apply, go to the website and enroll in the AZ&Me prescription savings program. You will need your medical provider’s signature to complete the form. If eligible, you’ll be sent the medication at no cost.
Other ways to save on your medication include purchasing a 90-day supply rather than a 30 day. Shop around to find the best price at pharmacies near you.
Alternatives to Byetta for Weight Loss
Several other GLP-1 agonist medications are now available. These include:
- Trulicity (dulaglutide)
- Victoza (liraglutide)
- Ozempic (semaglutide)
- Wegovy (semaglutide)
- Saxenda (liraglutide)
Wegovy and Saxenda are the only two GLP-1 agonists approved for weight loss. Users don’t have to have type 2 diabetes. However, you must meet specific criteria, including one of the following:
- BMI of 30 or greater (or)
- BMI of 27 or greater with a weight-related medical condition
People with certain medical conditions should avoid taking Byetta. Those include:
- Severe renal impairment
- Thyroid carcinoma
- Renal dysfunction
Several medications can interact with Byetta. The most common ones include the following:
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Frequently Asked Questions
K Health articles are all written and reviewed by MDs, PhDs, NPs, or PharmDs and are for informational purposes only. This information does not constitute and should not be relied on for professional medical advice. Always talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits of any treatment.
K Health has strict sourcing guidelines and relies on peer-reviewed studies, academic research institutions, and medical associations. We avoid using tertiary references.
Drug approval package: Byetta. (2005.)
Efficacy and tolerability of exenatide monotherapy over 24 weeks in antidiabetic drug-naive patients with type 2 diabetes: A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled, parallel-group study. (2008.)
Exenatide (Byetta) as a novel treatment option for type 2 diabetes mellitus. (2006.)
Exenatide and weight loss. (2010.)
Highlights of prescribing information. (2005.)
Type 2 diabetes. (2021.)
Short-term exenatide treatment leads to significant weight loss in a subset of obese women without diabetes. (2012.)
Important BYDUREON BCise safety information to keep in mind. (N.D.)