Diabetes tips

The Truth About Glucagon: Debunking Common Myths and Misperceptions

Lauren Rapaport
Featured Podcast Episode
March 5, 2024

Ever heard someone say you only need glucagon when you’re passed out? In my conversation with Paul R. Edick, Xeris Pharmaceuticals® Chairman & Chief Executive Officer, we discussed the misperceptions and myths surrounding glucagon as a rescue prescription for very low blood sugar. From the lack of education within the healthcare community to the patients’ misinformation themselves, this is a call to action for patient advocacy, which starts with learning the truth about glucagon. Gvoke® (glucagon injection) is on a mission to save lives and I’m here to help spread this education to the type one community!

What is glucagon?

If you’re anything like me, when you were diagnosed with T1D, you were given a red container to keep in the fridge for very low blood sugar emergencies. The science behind glucagon is not really explained beyond the notion that it is used for extreme lows.

Glucagon is one of the two hormones that regulate blood sugar (insulin being the other one). Administering a rescue glucagon dose for the treatment of very low blood sugar, with Gvoke HypoPen® (glucagon injection) for example, stimulates the release of glucose into the bloodstream, primarily from glycogen stored in the liver.

The myths of glucagon

1. Glucagon causes extreme high blood sugars.

Many T1Ds are hesitant to use glucagon because of the fear of an extreme high. According to Paul, if an individual is experiencing a severe low, individuals should not worry about an extreme high because very low blood sugar is a potentially life threatening situation. Individuals should feel confident and prepared with ready-to-use glucagon knowing they have a potentially life-saving treatment they can count on.

2. You only need glucagon if you’ve passed out.

“I don't know where the wait until you're passed out came from. I don't understand the medical aspect of that. But somehow that ended up being the way physicians use it… At the end of the day, do you want to wait till you'e passed out and rely on somebody else to that's not going to know how to[administer] that kit any better than you do?” – Paul R. Edick, Chairman & Chief Executive Officer, Xeris Pharmaceuticals

3. Glucagon should be stored in your refrigerator.

Unlike insulin, glucagon doesn't need to be refrigerated. When you reconstitute the kit, it's going to degrade in a short period of time anyway. Refrigerating it doesn't really help.

4. You don't need glucagon if you're on a CGM.

On average, type ones have a severe low one or two times a year. Rather than being afraid of glucagon, it should be your best friend. You may go 10 years without having a severe low, and then one day, something is not quite right with your diet or exercise or your insulin that causes you to have a severe low and you end up in the emergency room.

There are 12-15 million insulin dependent people and less than 1 million have a prescription for glucagon. Paul compares that to the community of people with severe allergies. “They sell 8 million EpiPens every year… The vast majority of people who've got allergies, they'll tell you they have an EpiPen® autoinjector. And what they'll tell you is they have six of them and they put them in various places in their world. They go on a date, and they buy six more… they've got them just in case.”

The importance of patient advocacy

Paul believes that all insulin prescriptions should automatically be paired with a glucagon prescription. “What we're trying to do, and I think what patient advocates can do as well, is to encourage physician offices to have some kind of standardized procedure. So, every patient who leaves with a prescription… for insulin or sulfonylurea, there should be a co-prescription of a ready-to-use rescue glucagon, such as Gvoke HypoPen® (glucagon injection). That should be automatic.”

Until that becomes the norm, it’s our jobs as type ones to make sure we have what we need for very low blood sugars. So, if you don’t have glucagon or you’re pretty sure yours is (in the fridge) expired… then this is your sign to ask your provider at your next endo appointment if Gvoke HypoPen® (glucagon injection) is right for you.

Editorial control rests solely on Risely Health.

What is GVOKE? GVOKE is a prescription medicine used to treat very low blood sugar (severe hypoglycemia) in

people with diabetes ages 2 years and above. It is not known if GVOKE is safe and effective in children under 2

years of age.

Do not use GVOKE if: you have a tumor in the gland on top of your kidneys (adrenal gland) called a

pheochromocytoma, as it may cause a substantial increase in blood pressure; you have a tumor in your pancreas

called an insulinoma, as it may cause low blood sugar; or if you are allergic to glucagon or any inactive ingredient in

GVOKE.

GVOKE may cause other serious side effects, such as Serious skin rash -- in certain people with a tumor in their

pancreas called a glucagonoma; Serious allergic reactions -- Call your doctor or get medical help right away if you

have a serious allergic reaction including rash, difficulty breathing, low blood pressure.

See Important Safety Information: https://www.gvokeglucagon.com/#important-safety-information

See Full Prescribing Information: https://bit.ly/3baHqAO