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What is dulaglutide used for and how does it work?

Medically reviewed by Carmen Pope, BPharm. Last updated on May 18, 2023.

Official answer

  • Dulaglutide may be used to treat type 2 diabetes that has not responded to oral medications.
  • Dulaglutide works by mimicking the effects of GLP-1, a naturally occurring incretin hormone that is usually released following a meal.
  • Dulaglutide stimulates the secretion of insulin following food, reduces the amount of glucose produced by the liver, and helps to make you feel full after food.
  • Dulaglutide is injected once a week under the skin (subcutaneously).

Dulaglutide is an injectable medicine that is used to improve blood sugar control in adults over the age of 18 with type 2 diabetes. It is usually prescribed after oral medications for diabetes have not worked or have stopped working.

Dulaglutide is injected under the skin once a week, preferably on the same day each week at the same time. Each injection will help control blood sugars for one week.

Dulaglutide is only effective in people with type 2 diabetes.

How does dulaglutide work?

Dulaglutide belongs to a class of medicines called GLP-1 receptor agonists. It may also be called an incretin mimetic.

Dulaglutide works by mimicking the functions of natural incretin hormones in the body that help keep blood sugar levels under control, especially immediately following a meal. Incretin hormones are gut peptides that are secreted from the stomach when food is eaten. They also stimulate the secretion of insulin in response to high blood glucose levels. Two incretin hormones are known as GIP (glucose-dependent insulinotropic polypeptide) and GLP-1 (glucagon-like peptide-1).

In people with type 2 diabetes, natural incretin release is diminished or no longer present. However, it can be stimulated with pharmacological agents, such as Dulaglutide.

Dulaglutide shares 90% of the same structure as human GLP-1 but is man-made. It has been modified so that it can last in the body for a long time (approximately one week) and not be broken down by an enzyme naturally present in the blood, called dipeptidyl peptidase-4 or DPP-4.

Dulaglutide acts like GLP-1 and binds to GLP-1 receptors, stimulating insulin release from the pancreas, reducing the amount of glucose that the liver produces, and making you feel full by slowing gastric emptying.


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