The obesity epidemic in the developed and developing world is being followed by an epidemic of type 2 diabetes. In type 2 diabetes, subjects cannot manage glucose properly because they do not produce enough insulin, and the peripheral tissues have become resistant to insulin. Glucagon-like peptide 1 (GLP-1) is an intestinal peptide hormone that is secreted in response to food to regulate the postprandial blood glucose concentration. One of the actions of GLP-1 is to stimulate insulin secretion. In subjects with type 2 diabetes, intravenous or subcutaneous GLP-1 stimulated insulin production and decreased blood glucose levels. However, as GLP-1 is rapidly metabolised, it is not suitable for use in most subjects with type 2 diabetes. Exendin-4 is a 39-amino acid peptide that acts as an agonist at the GLP-1 receptor. After subcutaneous administration, synthetic exendin-4 (exenatide) decreased postprandial concentrations of glucose and insulin, and fasting glucose levels in subjects with type 2 diabetes, and the effects lasted several hours. Subsequently, exenatide was been trialled in subjects taking metformin only, a sulfonylurea only, or metformin and a sulfonylurea, and shown to improve glycemic control with few adverse events, initially over 30 weeks, and then extended to 82 weeks. Exenatide may also be as effective as insulin glargine in subjects with type 2 diabetes not adequately controlled with the oral agents. In conclusion, exenatide represents a new and beneficial addition to the medicines used to treat type 2 diabetes.