Introduction: Glucagon-like peptide-1 receptor agonists (GLP-1 RAs) are increasingly being used for the treatment of type 2 diabetes mellitus, but consideration of benefits and potential adverse events is required. This review examines the state of glycemic control, weight loss, blood pressure, and tolerability, as well as the current debate about the safety of GLP-1 RAs, including risk of pancreatitis, pancreatic cancer, and thyroid cancer.
Methods: A MEDLINE search (2010-2015) identified publications that discussed longer-acting GLP-1 RAs. Search terms included GLP-1 receptor agonists, liraglutide, exenatide, lixisenatide, semaglutide, dulaglutide, albiglutide, efficacy, safety, pancreatitis, pancreatic cancer, and thyroid cancer. Abstracts from the American Diabetes Association, European Association for the Study of Diabetes, and American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists from 2010 to 2015 were also searched. Efficacy and safety studies, pooled analyses, and meta-analyses were prioritized.
Results: Research has confirmed that GLP-1 RAs provide robust glycemic control, weight loss, and blood pressure re-duction. Current studies do not prove increased risk of pancreatitis, pancreatic cancer, or thyroid cancer but more trials are needed since publications that indicate safety or suggest increased risk have methodological flaws that prevent firm conclusions to be drawn about these rare, long-term events.
Conclusion: GLP-1 RA therapy in the context of individualized, patient-centered care continues to be supported by current literature. GLP-1 RA therapy provides robust glycemic control, blood pressure reduction, and weight loss, but studies are still needed to address concerns about tolerability and safety, including pancreatitis and cancer.