Effectiveness of progressive dose-escalation of exenatide (exendin-4) in reducing dose-limiting side effects in subjects with type 2 diabetes

Diabetes Metab Res Rev. Sep-Oct 2004;20(5):411-7. doi: 10.1002/dmrr.499.


Background: Exenatide (exendin-4) exhibits dose-dependent glucoregulatory activity, but causes dose-limiting nausea and vomiting. This study was designed to formally assess the possibility of inducing tolerance to the side effects of nausea and vomiting at therapeutic doses of exenatide, using a dose-escalation methodology.

Methods: In this two-arm, triple-blind, multicenter study, 123 subjects with type 2 diabetes were enrolled and randomized; 99 (80.5%) of them completed the study. Subjects in the exenatide-primed arm received subcutaneous exenatide, starting at 0.02 micro g/kg three times a day (TID) and increasing in 0.02 micro g/kg per dose increments every 3 days for 35 days. Subjects in the exenatide-naive arm received placebo TID for 35 days. At the end of this 35-day regimen, subjects in both arms received the same highest dose of exenatide (0.24 micro g/kg TID) for 3 days. Thus, the exenatide-naive arm received exenatide for the first time on Day 35.

Results: The exenatide-primed arm had a lower proportion of subjects experiencing nausea and vomiting in response to exposure to the highest dose of exenatide (27 vs 56% in the exenatide-naive arm; p = 0.0018). Kaplan-Meier estimates of cumulative incidence were 0.28 in the exenatide-primed arm, compared with 0.68 in the exenatide-naive arm (p </= 0.001). As predicted by the study design, fewer subjects in the exenatide-primed arm reported severe nausea (29%) and vomiting (10%) than those in the exenatide-naive arm (48 and 31%, respectively). In the exenatide-primed arm, fasting serum glucose progressively declined over the first 35 days of dosing, but was unchanged in the exenatide-naive arm (placebo phase) during the same interval.

Conclusion: Gradual dose-escalation of exenatide successfully reduced the proportion of subjects experiencing dose-limiting nausea and vomiting, with no loss of glucoregulatory activity, thus demonstrating the value of gradual dose-escalation in mitigating the gastrointestinal side effects of exenatide.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Multicenter Study
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Blood Glucose / metabolism
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / drug therapy*
  • Exenatide
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Hypoglycemic Agents / administration & dosage*
  • Hypoglycemic Agents / adverse effects*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Nausea / chemically induced*
  • Nausea / prevention & control*
  • Peptides / administration & dosage*
  • Peptides / adverse effects*
  • Venoms / administration & dosage*
  • Venoms / adverse effects*


  • Blood Glucose
  • Hypoglycemic Agents
  • Peptides
  • Venoms
  • Exenatide