GENERIC NAME: glucagon


DRUG CLASS AND MECHANISM: Glucagon is a hormone produced by the pancreas that, along with insulin, controls the level of glucose in the blood. Glucagon has the opposite effect of insulin, that is, it increases the glucose level in blood. Glucagon, the drug, is a synthetic (man-made) version of human glucagon and is manufactured by genetic engineering using the bacteria Escherichia coli. Glucagon is used to increase the blood glucose level in severe hypoglycemia (low blood glucose). Glucagon is a glucose-elevating drug. Other glucose-elevating drugs are glucose itself and diazoxide (Proglycem). In diabetic patients, low blood glucose (hypoglycemia) may occur from an unintended excess of injected insulin or oral glucose-lowering medication, such as a sulfonylurea like glipizide (Glucotrol), that are being used to treat the diabetes. Hypoglycemia also may occur as a result of insufficient caloric intake or sudden, excessive physical exertion. Symptoms of hypoglycemia include nervousness, cool skin, headache, confusion, convulsions or coma. In any hypoglycemic situation, efforts should be made to raise the glucose level in the blood. Glucagon raises blood glucose levels by preventing the liver from storing glucose, increasing glucose formation in the liver from dietary proteins and fats, and increasing the release of glucose from the liver into blood. Glucagon transiently paralyzes the muscles of the intestines and occasionally is used during testing that requires the intestines to be flaccid, for example, endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography and barium enema.

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