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What is Ozempic?

Ozempic is a medication used to treat type 2 diabetes. It was approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 2017.¹

Ozempic is a brand of the generic drug semaglutide. Other brands of semaglutide are Wegovy and Rybelsus.

It comes as a single-use pre-filled injection pen used to inject the medication under the skin.

The following strengths and doses are available:²

  • 2mg/3mL (0.68mg/mL): 0.25mg or 0.5mg per injection

  • 2mg/1.5mL (1.34mg/mL): 0.25mg or 0.5mg per injection

  • 4mg/3mL (1.34mg/mL): 1mg per injection

  • 8mg/3mL (2.68mg/mL): 2mg per injection

How does Ozempic work?

Ozempic belongs to the class of drugs called glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1) agonists.³ These drugs work in the same way as GLP-1.

GLP-1 is a hormone naturally released in the body in response to eating. It works in the following three ways:⁴

  • Stimulates insulin secretion

  • Inhibits glucagon secretion

  • Slows the movement of food through the digestive system

Insulin and glucagon are hormones released by the pancreas that regulate blood sugar levels.⁵ ⁶

Having too little GLP-1 hormone can cause obesity, while too much can cause low blood sugar (hypoglycemia).⁴

Ozempic acts just like GLP-1 by binding to the GLP-1 receptors and activating them.¹ Depending on your current blood glucose levels, the drug stimulates insulin secretion and reduces glucagon secretion. This lowers blood sugar levels.

The medication also delays food moving from your stomach to your small intestine (gastric emptying). This may reduce your appetite and lead to weight loss.⁷

What is Ozempic used to treat?

Ozempic is used alongside diet and exercise to improve blood sugar control in people with type 2 diabetes. It also helps reduce their risk of stroke, heart attack, and other diabetes complications, including death.⁷

Type 2 diabetes is a condition where the body’s cells do not respond normally to insulin, which leads to elevated blood sugar and damages the body over time.

Although using semaglutide can result in weight loss, Ozempic is not a weight-loss drug.⁸

How do you take Ozempic?

Ozempic comes in the form of a pre-filled injection pen. You inject the drug under the skin, usually once per week. A medical professional will show you how to use the Ozempic pen before you need to administer it independently.

Before using Ozempic, check the product visually for anything unusual, such as discoloration and particles in the solution. Don’t use the pen if you notice either of these abnormalities. Use a clean injection pen instead.

Follow the medication instructions carefully. This medication can be taken with or without food. Inject the medication under your skin in the abdomen, thigh, or upper arm area. Change the injection site each time.

Never reuse the needle or share it with someone else. Dispose of the injection pen immediately in a puncture-resistant container.

The following are the typical recommended dosages for Ozempic:¹

  • Starting dose: 0.25mg once weekly. You will likely take this dose for four weeks.

  • Maintenance dose: 0.5mg once weekly.

If your doctor finds you need additional blood sugar control after four weeks of the maintenance dose, they may increase your dose to 1mg once weekly or higher in some cases.

Seeing results

Ozempic starts working within the first week of beginning your maintenance dose. Your blood sugar levels will start to decline during this time.

Reaching the steady state can take about four to five weeks of once-a-week Ozempic doses. Steady state means the rate the drug goes in and gets absorbed by your body is the same as the rate of its elimination from your body.

It can take eight weeks or longer for Ozempic’s full effects to be seen.⁹

Potential side effects of Ozempic

Along with its intended effects, Ozempic can cause adverse effects. These range from mild side effects that are not usually harmful and will go away on their own to some that are severe and require immediate medical attention.

The most common Ozempic side effects include:¹

  • Diarrhea

  • Nausea

  • Constipation

  • Vomiting

  • Stomach pain

  • Acid indigestion

  • Gas

Consult your doctor if these side effects persist for a long time or get worse.

Ozempic can cause more serious side effects, including:

  • Diabetic retinopathy complications. People with a history of diabetic retinopathy are at a higher risk of complications when taking Ozempic and should be closely monitored.

  • Thyroid C-cell tumors. In animal studies, Ozempic has been seen to increase the risk of thyroid C-cell tumors. It is not known if the risk is similar in humans. Speak to your doctor if you develop symptoms of thyroid cancer, including swelling or a lump in your neck, hoarseness, difficulty swallowing, or shortness of breath.⁸

  • Pancreatitis. Ozempic can cause inflammation of the pancreas. Symptoms include severe stomach pain that may radiate to the back with or without vomiting.

  • Hypoglycemia (low blood sugar). This is more likely if you take Ozempic with insulin or a sulfonylurea medication, such as glimepiride (Amaryl) or glyburide (DiaBeta or Glynase).

  • Acute kidney injury. Ozempic may worsen chronic kidney failure or cause kidney injury in people with or without underlying kidney disease. Speak to your doctor if you become dehydrated or experience nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea.

  • Hypersensitivity. Some people taking Ozempic may have hypersensitivity reactions, including angioedema and anaphylaxis.

Speak to your doctor immediately or call 911 if you develop any signs of these serious adverse reactions.

Other side effects include:

  • Discomfort at the injection site

  • Increased heart rate

  • Gallstones

  • Fatigue

  • Dizziness or fainting

  • Dysgeusia (a condition where you think all foods taste metallic, bitter, sweet, or sour)

Long-term use of Ozempic

Ozempic is typically prescribed as a long-term medication. Taking it over a long period is safe if you follow your prescription.

Missed doses

Take a missed dose of Ozempic as soon as you remember, but only within five days. If more than five days have passed, skip the missed dose and wait to take the next dose instead.⁸

Taking double doses of Ozempic can lead you to have dangerously low blood sugar levels.

You should check your blood sugar levels regularly if you miss a dose.

Setting up a calendar or phone reminder can help you remember to take your dose.

Overdose

Seek medical help immediately if you think you or someone else has taken too much Ozempic.

Call 911 if someone has had a seizure, has collapsed, has trouble breathing, or can’t be woken up.⁷

Allergy information

Ozempic can cause an allergic reaction in some people.

Symptoms of a severe allergic reaction include:

  • Trouble breathing or swallowing

  • Severe rash or itching

  • Swollen face, throat, lips, or tongue

  • Very quick heartbeat

  • Dizziness

  • Feeling faint

Seek emergency medical help if you develop these symptoms.

Do not take Ozempic again if you have already experienced an allergic reaction to it.

What to discuss with your doctor before you start taking Ozempic

Before you start taking Ozempic, talk to your doctor about the following things if they apply to you:

  • Tell your doctor if you are allergic to Ozempic or its ingredients. You can ask your pharmacist what ingredients Ozempic contains. Your doctor should also be aware of any other drug allergies you have and whether you have had previous reactions.

  • Tell your doctor about the other medications you are currently taking, including prescription drugs, nonprescription drugs, herbal remedies, and supplements.

  • Tell your doctor about other current or past medical conditions, including:

    • Pancreatitis

    • Kidney problems

    • Gallbladder disease

    • Certain eye problems

    • Stomach or intestinal conditions

  • Tell your doctor if you are pregnant, planning a pregnancy, or breastfeeding.

Stopping Ozempic

Do not suddenly stop taking Ozempic because doing so could increase your blood sugar levels.

If you really need to stop using Ozempic, consult your doctor and ask for instructions on how to do so safely. You may need to take a gradually decreasing dose to prevent adverse effects.

Ozempic and pregnancy

Ozempic should only be used during pregnancy if the benefits outweigh the risks.¹

It is not known whether Ozempic is safe to be used during pregnancy as there is no sufficient data about the effects of Ozempic on the human fetus.

Your doctor may recommend stopping Ozempic treatment at least two months before a planned pregnancy.

It is not known if Ozempic passes into breast milk or how it affects a nursing baby. Speak to your doctor about the safety of taking Ozempic while breastfeeding.

Interactions with other drugs

Several drugs interact with Ozempic.¹

Taking Ozempic together with drugs that increase insulin is usually not recommended. The interaction can increase the risk of hypoglycemia. If you really need to take these medications, your doctor may prescribe a lower dose.

Below are some examples of these drugs:

  • Insulin detemir (Levemir)

  • Insulin degludec (Tresiba)

  • Insulin glargine (Lantus, Toujeo)

  • Glipizide (Glucotrol)

  • Glimepiride (Amaryl)

  • Glyburide (Diabeta, Glynase)

Since Ozempic delays the passage of food from your stomach, it could delay the absorption of any other medications you are taking by mouth. Ozempic is not thought to affect the absorption of oral medications to a clinically significant degree, but caution is advised.

Drug approval history

Ozempic was first approved by the FDA in 2017 for the treatment of type 2 diabetes.

Tips and advice for taking Ozempic

The following tips can help you take Ozempic safely and effectively:

  • Ozempic should be injected on the same day each week, at any time of day. You don’t need to have a meal when you administer it.

  • Ozempic is designed to work alongside a proper diet and daily exercise to treat type 2 diabetes. Ask your doctor for advice on how to make positive lifestyle changes. They may refer you to a nutritionist.

  • It is important to have your blood sugar levels checked regularly. This is the only way to know if Ozempic is working properly for you. Your doctor will recommend how frequently you should do this.

  • Store unused Ozempic pens in the fridge at 36°F to 46°F (2°C to 8°C). Pens currently in use should be stored at 59ºF to 86ºF (15°C to 30ºC) or in the fridge at 36°F to 46°F (2°C to 8°C). Used pens should be disposed of after 56 days, so keep track of this by writing it in your calendar.

  • If you travel away from home, take extra pens and needles with you in case of loss or damage. Keep your pen with you, and don’t leave it in a place where the temperature limits could be exceeded, like in a car.

  • Keep your medication out of reach of children.

  • Talk to your doctor before taking Ozempic with other medications.

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Disclaimer

Here at HealthMatch, we’ve done our best to ensure that the information provided in this article is helpful, up to date, and, most importantly, accurate.

However, we can’t replace the one-to-one advice of a qualified medical practitioner or outline all of the possible risks associated with this particular drug and your circumstances.

It is therefore important for you to note that the information contained in this article does not constitute professional medical or healthcare advice, diagnosis or recommendation of treatment and is not intended to, nor should be used to, replace professional medical advice. This article may not always be up to date and is not exhaustive of all of the risks and considerations relevant to this particular drug. In no circumstances should this article be relied upon without independent consideration and confirmation by a qualified medical practitioner.

Your doctor will be able to explain all possible uses, dosages, precautions, interactions with other drugs, and other potential adverse effects, and you should always talk to them about any kind of medication you are taking, thinking about taking or wanting to stop taking.

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