Glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1), a principal mediator of the postprandial insulinotropic response in health, has a half-life of minutes. The saliva of the Gila monster contains exendin-4, a structural analogue of human GLP-1, but with a much longer half-life. A synthetic preparation of exendin-4, exenatide, is suitable for human use and effectively lowers glucose in ambulant type 2 diabetic patients. When compared with insulin, exenatide therapy is associated with a reduction in hypoglycaemic episodes and postprandial glycaemic excursions in this group. Accordingly, GLP-1 analogues are appealing therapies for hyperglycaemia in the critically ill patient and warrant further study.