Byetta For Weight Loss: Does it Work?

By Irmanie Hemphill, MD, FAAFP
Medically reviewed checkmarkMedically reviewed
January 17, 2023

Key takeaways

  • 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.

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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?

Byetta is a GLP-1 agonist medication originally approved in 2005—the first medication of its kind. The medication enhances the work of the naturally occurring GLP-1 hormone by:

  • 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

This medication can also be taken with metformin or a sulfonylurea—medications that are commonly prescribed to people with type 2 diabetes. Sometimes, all three medications are prescribed together.

Byetta Generic

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).

Typical Dosage

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:

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.

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Alternatives to Byetta for Weight Loss

Several other GLP-1 agonist medications are now available. These include:

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

Byetta Interactions

People with certain medical conditions should avoid taking Byetta. Those include:

  • Severe renal impairment
  • Pancreatitis
  • Thyroid carcinoma
  • Renal dysfunction

Several medications can interact with Byetta. The most common ones include the following:

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Frequently Asked Questions

How much weight can you lose with Byetta?
The amount of weight you lose depends on several factors, such as your starting weight and lifestyle. Those who follow a reduced-calorie diet and exercise regularly tend to lose more. During clinical trials, participants who did not change their diet and exercise lost an average of 6 pounds.
Why was Byetta taken off the market?
Byetta was not taken off the market. However, in 2007, the labels were updated to include the increased risk of pancreatitis, pancreatic cancer, and thyroid cancer.
Does Byetta cause weight gain?
Currently, there are no studies that indicate weight gain while taking Byetta.
What diabetes drugs help with weight loss?
Several other GLP-1 medications help treat type 2 diabetes and also assist with weight loss. These include Wegovy, Trulicity, Ozempic, Victoza, and Saxenda.

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.

Irmanie Hemphill, MD, FAAFP

Dr. Hemphill is an award winning primary care physician with an MD from Florida State University College of Medicine. She completed her residency at Halifax Medical Center.

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