Glucagon-like peptide-1 receptor co-agonists for treating metabolic disease

Laurie L. Baggio, Daniel J. Drucker


Glucagon-like peptide-1 receptor (GLP-1R) agonists are approved to treat type 2 diabetes and obesity. They elicit robust improvements in glycemic control and weight loss, combined with cardioprotection in individuals at risk of or with pre-existing cardiovascular disease. These attributes make GLP-1 a preferred partner for next-generation therapies exhibiting improved efficacy yet retaining safety to treat diabetes, obesity, non-alcoholic steatohepatitis, and related cardiometabolic disorders. The available clinical data demonstrate that the best GLP-1R agonists are not yet competitive with bariatric surgery, emphasizing the need to further improve the efficacy of current medical therapy.

Scope of review

In this article, we discuss data highlighting the physiological and pharmacological attributes of potential peptide and non-peptide partners, exemplified by amylin, glucose-dependent insulinotropic polypeptide (GIP), and steroid hormones. We review the progress, limitations, and future considerations for translating findings from preclinical experiments to competitive efficacy and safety in humans with type 2 diabetes and obesity.

Major conclusions

Multiple co-agonist combinations exhibit promising clinical efficacy, notably tirzepatide and investigational amylin combinations. Simultaneously, increasing doses of GLP-1R agonists such as semaglutide produces substantial weight loss, raising the bar for the development of new unimolecular co-agonists. Collectively, the available data suggest that new co-agonists with robust efficacy should prove superior to GLP-1R agonists alone to treat metabolic disorders.