Pharm 101: Glucagon



  • Produced by alpha islet cells in pancreas. Multiple organ system effects.
  • Metabolic:
    • Gluconeogenesis, ketogenesis, glycogenolysis
    • Pharmacological amounts cause release of insulin from normal pancreatic beta cells
  • Cardiac:
    • Positive inotropic and chronotropic effect
    • Produces effect similiar to beta-receptor agonists without requiring functioning beta-receptors
  • Smooth muscle:
    • Relaxation in large doses

  • Extensively degraded in liver, kidneys, plasma
  • Half-life 3-6 minutes (similiar to insulin)

Clinical uses
  • Severe hypoglycaemia
    • IV, IM or SC administration
    • 1mg vials
  • Diagnosis of endocrine disorders
  • Previously first-line in beta-blocker overdose
    • Ability to increase cAMP production in heart independent of beta-receptor function
  • Radiology of bowel

Adverse effects
  • Transient nausea/vomiting

  • Pheochromocytoma

Further reading


Pharm 101 700

Pharmacology 101

Top 200 drugs

MBBS (UWA) CCPU Emergency Medicine Trainee with interests in medical education, ECG interpretation, and the use of point-of-care ultrasound in the undifferentiated patient. Co-author of the LITFL ECG Library | Twitter

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