ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. -- Most drugs come with unwelcome side effects. But thereís a new drug for Type II diabetes that has some patients rushing out to buy a smaller wardrobe.
The first thing you might notice about Tilly Dewey is her clothes are too big.
"But I noticed that my pants started to turn and I had to pull them up and turn the waistband down to make them fit," Dewey explained.
What you wonít see so easily is Deweyís long battle with Type II diabetes.
"Iím suffering the effects of uncontrolled blood sugar and Iím working the hardest I can to get it under control. I donít want to go blind," Dewey said.
As an elementary school librarian, Dewey needs all the energy she can muster. And now, after years of struggling with diabetes, her blood sugar is finally under control. And thatís not all.
"Iíve lost over 24 pounds, and boy was I surprised," Dewey added.
She had tried every kind of diet, so she was amazed to see she those 24 pounds drop off in just three months. The weight loss started after she started taking Byetta, a drug intended to treat Type II diabetes. The weight loss was just an unexpected side effect. A study showed patients can lose two to three percent of their body weight in the first several months.
"Thereís a central effect in the brain that tells patients that they donít need to eat as much or as frequently," said Robert Ferraro, M.D., an endocrinologist at Southwest Endocrinology in Albuquerque, N.M.
And if that doesnít get your attention, maybe this will: the drug is a synthetic hormone called Exenatide, found naturally in the mouths of giant lizards.
"Later, when they went to find out where this hormone was actually working physiologically, they found that it was in the saliva of Gila monsters," Dr. Ferraro added.
Byetta is injected twice daily. That may scare off some people, but the needle is tiny and the rewards, according to patients, can be huge. Byetta is not intended for weight loss in people who do not have Type II diabetes. And it comes with its own set of side effects like nausea and reflux. Also, not everyone who takes the drug experiences weight loss.
Byetta was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in April 2005 to treat patients who were not able to get their high blood sugar under control using other methods. The lizard hormone is similar to a hormone in the human digestive tract that increases the production of insulin when blood sugar levels are high. Byetta also slows the emptying of the stomach and causes a decrease in appetite, leading to weight loss. Research found patients can lose two percent to three percent of their body weight in the first several months of taking the drug.
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