Ozempic is a popular type 2 diabetes medication that lowers blood sugar and helps improve HbA1c levels while helping those who take it lose or maintain weight.
In this article, we will discuss everything you need to know about Ozempic, including its benefits, side effects, and how to use it effectively.
What is Ozempic?
Ozempic is the brand name of a drug that is a glucagon-like peptide 1 (GLP-1) agonist.
Its active ingredient is semaglutide and it was first approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in the United States in 2017.
This injectable drug for type 2 diabetes is only taken once a week due to its long duration of action.
What are the benefits of Ozempic?
Ozempic has three main benefits for people living with diabetes:
Better blood sugar management
Ozempic helps improve blood sugar levels by increasing the amount of insulin released by the pancreas while inhibiting the release of glucagon from the liver. This results in lower blood sugar and A1C levels.
Weight loss or weight maintenance
Ozempic helps reduce food intake by reducing appetite and slowing down digestion. In clinical trials, people taking Ozempic lost an average of 4-5% of their body weight.
Ozempic is often prescribed “off-label” (without FDA approval) to people with type 1 diabetes or even no type of diabetes to help with weight loss.
Read more: Can Ozempic Help You Lose Weight?
Lower risk of cardiovascular disease
Ozempic has been shown to reduce the risk of a serious heart attack, stroke or death in adults with type 2 diabetes and heart disease.
Why would you prescribe Ozempic?
Ozempic is only approved by the FDA for people with type 2 diabetes. Not everyone with type 2 diabetes will be prescribed Ozempic because many people are able to control their blood sugar with diet, exercise, and sometimes with insulin therapy.
However, if you are struggling to keep your blood sugar levels within a healthy range with your usual diabetes medications, or if you are struggling with insulin resistance, you may be prescribed Ozempic as an addition to your diabetes management plan.
Many people with type 2 diabetes and existing heart disease are also prescribed Ozempic because Ozempic reduces the risk of stroke, heart attack and premature death in this population.
What are the side effects?
The most common side effects include:
- Weight loss
- Low blood sugar, especially if you are taking insulin
Although rare, more serious complications can include:
- Thyroid tumors, including cancer
- Inflammation of the pancreas
- Vision changes (worse diabetic retinopathy)
- Kidney problems
- Serious allergic reactions
Several of these more severe side effects can lead to health complications and death.
Call your doctor or seek emergency medical attention if you develop a fever, experience changes or decreases in vision, or if you feel weak or in pain after taking the medicine.
Read more: Ozempic side effects: what you need to know
Ozempic is a liquid solution in pre-filled disposable pens. The medicine is injected subcutaneously (under the skin) once a week.
Ozempic can be taken with or without food.
Pen dose strength
Ozempic pens come in several different strengths, which are written as milligrams of semaglutide (the active ingredient in Ozempic) per milliliter of solution (mg/ml).
|Resilience||The dose given per injection|
|2 mg/1.5 ml (this can also be written as 1.34 mg/ml)||0.25mg or 0.5mg|
|2mg/3mL (0.68mg/mL)||0.25mg or 0.5mg|
|4mg/3mL (1.34mg/mL)||1 mg|
|8mg/3mL (2.68mg/mL)||2 mg|
How much Ozempic do I take?
This will vary from patient to patient and will depend on your health history, health goals and lifestyle.
However, most doctors will start treatment with 0.2mg once a week. It is important that you take Ozempic on the same day each week.
After a few weeks, if there are no undesirable side effects and there are fewer blood sugar spikes after meals, the doctor may increase the dose to 0.5 mg.
If you continue to experience spikes in blood sugar without any side effects, your doctor may increase the dose to 1mg once a week or even to 2mg once a week.
The final maintenance dose may be 0.5 mg, 1 mg or 2 mg, but it depends on the patient.
The maximum dose of Ozempic is 2 mg once a week.
Read more: Ozempic Dosage Guide: How Much Should You Take?
What happens if you take too much Ozempic?
Taking too much Ozempic can cause serious side effects such as debilitating nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, abdominal pain and even low blood sugar (especially if you are also taking insulin), which can be fatal if not treated immediately treated.
If you accidentally take too much Ozempic, contact your doctor or seek emergency medical help immediately.
Can I miss a dose of Ozempic?
If you miss a dose of Ozempic you can take it a few days late, but if you miss a dose more than 5 days ago, just skip that week’s dose and take your regularly scheduled dose on time.
There will be no insulin resistance or weight gain after one missed dose. However, try not to skip doses on a regular basis, as the drug is most effective when taken consistently.
How to inject Ozempic
Visually inspect the Ozempic fluid in the pen before injecting. If any particles or discoloration are visible, do not use the pen.
Clean the injection site with alcohol before injecting. Change the injection site weekly to prevent injury under the skin.
Ozempic is usually injected under the skin in the thigh, abdomen or upper arm. Talk to your doctor about the best injection sites and how to rotate injection sites.
Who should not take Ozempic?
If you do not have a prescription for Ozempic, do not take this drug.
It is not recommended to use if you are pregnant, planning to become pregnant or breastfeeding.
Not recommended for people without diabetes or with pre-diabetes or type 1 diabetes without medical advice.
You should not use Ozempic if you or any member of your family have ever had medullary thyroid cancer (MTC) or if you have multiple endocrine adenomatosis type 2 (MEN 2).
You should not use Ozempic if you are allergic to semaglutide. If you are interested in trying a GLP-1 agonist but are allergic to semaglutide, you can choose Victoza, which has liraglutide as the active ingredient.
Talk to your doctor if you have questions or concerns about starting Ozempic or if you have recently been prescribed this medicine.
How do I stop taking Ozempic?
There are many reasons why you might want to stop taking Ozempic: maybe you are experiencing unwanted side effects, maybe you don’t like how the medicine makes you feel, or maybe it has become too expensive.
Be sure to talk to your doctor before stopping any diabetes medicine, including Ozempic.
Your doctor will probably want you to stop the dose before stopping cold turkey. Be warned, however, that insulin resistance, food cravings, blood sugar levels and weight may increase again after you stop taking Ozempic.
You’ll want to have a plan, such as alternative medications, exercise, or a diet plan, to help combat any rebound effects you may experience.
How does Ozempic improve diabetes management?
Lower blood sugar combined with weight loss or maintenance makes managing diabetes much easier. In addition, research has shown that lower A1C values correlate with fewer diabetes complications in the long term.
It is much easier to maintain a lower A1C value if you are not already struggling with insulin resistance, which Ozempic helps you fight. Weight loss can also make physical activity easier.
Finally, because Ozempic lowers the risk of heart attack, stroke, and premature death in people with type 2 diabetes and heart disease, taking Ozempic as a preventive medicine can significantly improve health outcomes, as heart attack and stroke are known complications of diabetes. \
Can Ozempic replace insulin?
NO. Ozempic is not like insulin and is not a substitute for insulin.
If you have recently been prescribed Ozempic, do not stop taking your other diabetes medicines unless your doctor specifically tells you to.
Ozempic lowers blood sugar over time, but does not cause acute low blood sugar the way insulin does.
If you usually take insulin with food, you will need to continue to do so. If you have been using Ozempic for several months, you may notice that your need for insulin gradually decreases, but this rarely, if ever, completely eliminates the need for insulin if you have diabetes.
Can I take Ozempic with other diabetes medicines?
Depending on other drugs, yes.
Ozempic can be taken in combination with metformin, insulin or other medicines, but ask your doctor if it is contraindicated with other medicines you are taking, and make sure your doctor knows about all other medicines you are taking before starting Ozempic.
However, Ozempic cannot be stacked with Wegovy, Victoza, Trulicity, or Mounjaro. These are other GLP-1 agonists and it is dangerous to combine them with Ozempic.
Read more: Ozempic vs Victoza: which one to choose? AND Ozempic vs. Wegovy – which drug is right for you?
Should Ozempic be refrigerated?
Yes. Ozempic should be stored in a refrigerator between 36°F and 46°F. It can be used up to 56 days after opening.
How do I get a prescription for Ozempic?
Talk to your doctor if you want a prescription for Ozempic. If you struggle with weight loss and insulin resistance and have type 2 diabetes, they should be able to write you a prescription.
If you don’t have type 2 diabetes but live with another form of diabetes and struggle with insulin resistance, talk to your doctor about treatment options.
If you don’t have any type of diabetes and want to lose weight, talk to your doctor about FDA approved weight loss medications that may be safer for you without the side effects that Ozempic may have.