Ozempic and Victoza are glucagon-like peptide 1 (GLP-1) agonists that are used to treat type 2 diabetes.
They help people manage blood sugar better, lower HbA1c, improve insulin sensitivity, and fight insulin resistance.
While they are remarkably similar, they have a few key differences that could influence your choice. So: Ozempic vs. Victoza: Which to Choose?
In this article, we will explain the similarities and differences between the two drugs so that you can make the best choice for you.
What are the active ingredients in Ozempic vs Victoza?
The active substance in Ozempic is semaglutide and the active substance in Victoza is liraglutide. Both drugs belong to the same class of drugs, which are glucagon-like peptide 1 (GLP-1) agonists.
This means that although their active ingredients are slightly different, their mechanism of action is the same and they are usually interchangeable (under medical supervision) unless you are allergic to one active ingredient or the other.
Why do people take Ozempic or Victoza?
Ozempic and Victoza are used to treat type 2 diabetes. These are liquid injectors that help lower blood sugar and A1C levels that are taken subcutaneously (just under the skin).
They help in improving insulin sensitivity, combating insulin resistance, slowing down digestion and suppressing appetite. As a result, many people taking these drugs experience weight loss.
Ozempic and Victoza reduce all-cause mortality and help reduce the risk of heart attack and stroke in people with type 2 diabetes and heart disease.
People with pre-diabetes or type 1 diabetes may be prescribed Ozempic or Victoza “off-label”, meaning they are not FDA approved to improve insulin resistance and blood sugar levels.
People are never prescribed both drugs; you take one or the other. The two drugs should never be mixed.
How are Ozempic and Victoza similar?
Ozempic and Victoza can be used alone or in combination with other diabetes medicines. However, they can never fully replace the use of insulin if you are insulin dependent.
The following are additional similarities between the two drugs:
Lower blood sugar and A1C
Both Ozempic and Victoza increase insulin secretion, thereby increasing sugar metabolism and improving insulin sensitivity.
They also inhibit glucagon production in the liver, helping people with type 2 diabetes better control their blood sugar and lower A1C.
May cause weight loss
Although none of the drugs are approved by the FDA as a weight loss drug, these drugs suppress appetite and slow down digestion, which causes many people to lose weight while taking any of them.
Since they are not approved for weight loss by the Food and Drug Administration, there is no recommended dosage to achieve this. Talk to your doctor if you want to lose weight and live with type 2 diabetes, as there are weight loss medications approved by the FDA for people living with diabetes.
Lower cardiovascular risk
Both Ozempic and Victoza reduce cardiovascular risk in people currently living with both type 2 diabetes and heart disease.
A meta-analysis from The Lancet found this to be true: Ozempic and Victoza lowered cardiovascular risk and even reduced the risk of death in people with diabetes and heart disease.
The American Diabetes Association even recommends the use of GLP-1 agonists (a class of drugs that both Ozempic and Victoza belong to) for people with type 2 diabetes and heart disease to lower their cardiovascular risk.
May cause unwanted side effects
Both Ozempic and Victoza can cause side effects.
- Low blood sugar, especially when combined with insulin
They can also cause serious side effects, including:
- Inflammation of the pancreas
- Kidney problems
- Increased risk of thyroid cancer
- Allergic reaction
To learn more about potential side effects, read our guides to Ozempic side effects and Victoza side effects.
They are branded and expensive
Unfortunately, there are no generic versions of Ozempic or Victoza. Both are brand names and quite expensive. Some health insurance plans may not cover any of these.
Check with your health plan to see if it is included on the form and what your share of the cost would be before starting treatment as it can become quite costly over time.
They do not replace insulin
Ozempic or Victoza are insulin substitutes. If you are insulin dependent and choose to start treatment with one of these medications, you will still need to continue taking your other diabetes medications as prescribed, unless otherwise directed by your doctor.
They can be taken with or without food
Unlike insulin and many other drugs, GLP-1 agonists can be taken with or without food and can be taken at any time of the day. While they have been proven to lower blood sugar in general, they do not cause acute low blood sugar when administered.
If you inject any of these in the morning and then go to exercise, it won’t have an immediate effect on your blood sugar, causing it to go low.
However, if nausea is common after the injection, eating something bland (e.g. toast, banana, rice or crackers) may help relieve it.
What is the difference between Ozempic and Victoza?
Ozempic and Victoza also differ in a few ways that might make you go for one or the other. The main differences between the two drugs are:
The frequency of administration and dosing varies
Ozempic is taken once a week and Victoza should be taken once a day. This is the main difference between the two drugs.
Ozempic is stronger and more durable; however, if you take too much Ozempic and experience side effects such as nausea or vomiting, be aware that these effects will last for a full week. If you calibrate your dose of Victoza and take too much, the effects wear off after 24 hours.
However, if you don’t want to take your daily injections or often forget to take your daily medication, the convenience of Ozempic may be a better fit for your lifestyle.
It is also worth noting that their dosage is completely different. You will need to work with your doctor to determine the right dosage for you and your health goals.
Ozempic may cause diabetic retinopathy
This is a serious side effect of Ozempic and is not related to Victoza. Studies show that semaglutide (the active substance in Ozempic) is associated with the early worsening of diabetic retinopathy.
Although this does not happen to all or even many patients taking Ozempic, there is an increased risk of taking this medicine.
Talk to your doctor if you have early diabetic retinopathy or are concerned that taking Ozempic may compromise your eye health.
Frequently asked questions
Yes. You can switch between them, especially if you experience unwanted side effects from one drug or the other. However, if you have been taking Ozempic, you will need to wait a full week after your last dose before starting your first dose of Victoza.
If you are currently taking Victoza you will need to wait 24 hours before taking your first dose of Ozempic.
Only switch medications under the guidance of your doctor as the dosage is completely different between the two medications and does not translate between them.
Even if you are taking the highest dose of Victoza, your doctor will probably start you on a low dose of Ozempic (and vice versa) until your body gets used to the new active ingredient.
It is possible, but not always likely. Losing weight can help improve both insulin resistance and blood sugar levels, sometimes making insulin or other diabetes medications unnecessary.
However, these changes can take a long time and should only be done under medical supervision.
Ozempic and Victoza cannot cure diabetes, but if you have lost significant weight and your blood sugar is well controlled with less insulin (and you are doing well with healthy eating and exercise), you can lower your insulin needs or stop taking insulin altogether.
This only applies to people with type 2 diabetes, because people with type 1 diabetes must never stop taking their insulin.
Talk to your doctor if you have questions or concerns, or if you experience severe bouts of low blood sugar while taking Ozempic or Victoza.
Ultimately, the choice between taking Ozempic or Victoza is entirely up to you and will vary based on your health history, lifestyle, health goals, and health insurance coverage.
Talk to your doctor about any questions or concerns, and if you start using one drug but don’t like it, you can always switch and try an alternative.
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