100 years later: Celebrating the history of glucagon in treating severe lows

Learn how recent innovations have made this diabetes treatment simpler to administer

100 years of glucagon banner
Lauren Barr
October 13, 2022

Since its discovery 100 years ago in 1922, glucagon has made a significant impact in diabetes care management. But if you’re new to diabetes, you might be wondering, what is glucagon? And what is glucagon used for?

A key hormone formed in the pancreas that stimulates the release of sugar into the blood, glucagon prevents blood sugar levels from dropping too low (whereas insulin helps keep blood sugar from rising too high). For anyone with diabetes, their family and their caretakers, monitoring and managing blood sugar levels to make sure that insulin and glucagon levels are in balance is a daily task.

While the commercialized use of insulin has been widespread in diabetes management since the 1960s, the latest advancements in glucagon treatment for severe hypoglycemia have occurred more recently.

What is hypoglycemia?

Anyone taking insulin to treat type 1 diabetes or type 2 diabetes is at risk for mild, moderate or severe hypoglycemia, which can occur when blood glucose levels drop below 70 mg/dL. While a mild or moderate low can be corrected with sugar, a severe low requires prescription glucagon administration.

Hypoglycemia symptoms

  • Pale skin, shakiness or dizziness
  • Sweating
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Muscle weakness
  • Headache

Severe hypoglycemia symptoms

  • Confusion
  • Inability to speak, eat or drink
  • Loss of coordination
  • Seizures or convulsions
  • Loss of consciousness

Awareness of the symptoms of hypoglycemia and severe lows is key to being able to act quickly. So is making sure that family, friends and caregivers know how to administer rescue glucagon — so the low can be safely treated. The Endocrine Society’s Know Hypo campaign has helped increase awareness of severe hypoglycemia, encouraging patients and their caregivers to take action sooner with glucagon to prevent complications.

History of glucagon

For decades, emergency glucagon kits — which contain a vial of glucagon powder and a syringe filled with saline — were the only commercially available options for treating severe lows. But in 2019, pre-filled syringes and needleless nasal sprays became available, and in 2020, glucagon autoinjectors came to market. These innovative glucagon treatments have made it simpler than ever to be prepared for low blood sugar.

If you don’t have a glucagon prescription, it’s a good idea to talk to your doctor about which treatment option could work for you. Having glucagon on-hand will help you feel more prepared in the event of severe lows.

From the latest diabetes technology for monitoring insulin levels to ready-to-use glucagon injections, we’ve seen exciting improvements in diabetes care that are removing some of the burdens associated with managing diabetes. Over the last century, rescue glucagon has become a critical, even life-saving medication that helps those with diabetes take back control.


US-GVK-22-00065 10/23

Gvoke HypoPen
*Store in original sealed pouch until time of use.

Meet Gvoke HypoPen

Gvoke HypoPen is the ready-to-use rescue pen anyone can administer with confidence1

  • In a study with simulated emergency conditions, 99% of people used it correctly1
  • Simple to administer at a moment’s notice, like an epinephrine autoinjector for severe allergic reactions
  • You can even self-administer it in certain situations2
  • Can be administered to the outer upper arm, lower abdomen or outer thigh3
  • Brings very low blood sugar back up quickly and safely3†

†In two clinical studies in adults, blood sugar levels that were less than 50 mg/dL increased to above 70 mg/dL or increased by at least 20 mg/dL within 13.8 minutes on average.


  1. Valentine V, Newswanger B, Prestrelski S, Andre AD, Garibaldi M. Human factors usability and validation studies of a glucagon autoinjector in a simulated severe hypoglycemia rescue situation. Diabetes Technol Ther. 2019;21(9):522-530.
  2. Gvoke HypoPen [instructions for use]. Chicago, IL: Xeris Pharmaceuticals, Inc; 2023.
  3. Gvoke [prescribing information]. Chicago, IL: Xeris Pharmaceuticals, Inc; 2023.
Indication and Important Safety Information⁠—⁠Read More


GVOKE is a prescription medicine used to treat very low blood sugar (severe hypoglycemia) in adults and kids 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.
  • you have a tumor in your pancreas called an insulinoma.
  • you are allergic to glucagon or any other inactive ingredient in GVOKE.


High blood pressure
GVOKE can cause high blood pressure in certain people with tumors in their adrenal glands.

Low blood sugar
GVOKE can cause low blood sugar in certain people with tumors in their pancreas called insulinomas by making too much insulin in their bodies.

Serious allergic reaction
Call your doctor or get medical help right away if you have a serious allergic reaction including:

  • rash
  • difficulty breathing
  • low blood pressure


The most common side effects of GVOKE in adults include:

  • nausea
  • vomiting
  • swelling at the injection site
  • headache

The most common side effects of GVOKE in children include:

  • nausea
  • low blood sugar
  • high blood sugar
  • vomiting
  • abdominal pain
  • headache
  • pain or redness at the injection site
  • itching

These are not all the possible side effects of GVOKE. For more information, ask your doctor. Call your doctor for medical advice about side effects.

You are encouraged to report side effects of prescription drugs to the FDA. Visit www.fda.gov/medwatch, or call 1-800-FDA-1088.


Before using GVOKE, tell your doctor about all your medical conditions, including if you:

  • have adrenal gland problems
  • have a tumor in your pancreas
  • have not had food or water for a long time (prolonged fasting or starvation)
  • have low blood sugar that does not go away (chronic hypoglycemia)
  • are pregnant or plan to become pregnant
  • are breastfeeding or plan to breastfeed

Tell your doctor about all the medicines you take, including prescription and over-the-counter medicines, vitamins, and herbal supplements.


  • Read the detailed Instructions for Use that come with GVOKE.
  • Use GVOKE exactly how your healthcare provider tells you to use it
  • Make sure your relatives, close friends, and caregivers know where you store GVOKE and how to use it the right way before you need their help.
  • Act quickly. Having very low blood sugar for a period of time may be harmful.
  • Your healthcare provider will tell you how and when to use GVOKE.
  • After giving GVOKE, your caregiver should call for emergency medical help right away.
  • If you do not respond after 15 minutes, your caregiver may give you another dose, if available. Tell your healthcare provider each time you use GVOKE. Low blood sugar may happen again after receiving an injection of GVOKE. Your diabetes medicine may need to be changed.


  • Keep GVOKE in the foil pouch until you are ready to use it.
  • Store GVOKE at temperatures between 68°F and 77°F.
  • Do not keep it in the refrigerator or let it freeze.

Keep GVOKE and all medicines out of the reach of children.

For more information, call 1-877-937-4737 or go to www.GvokeGlucagon.com.

Please see the Full Prescribing Information for Gvoke