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Ozempic: An Innovative Treatment for Type 2 Diabetes

Content Team

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8 min

Ozempic treatment is one of the more innovative methods to lower blood sugar, making it a good option to help treat diabetes.

Let’s take an in-depth look at Ozempic and its mechanism of action, when and when not to take this drug, and the potential side effects you should expect.


We’ll also explain the physical conditions that can make you think twice before taking Ozempic and the drugs that you shouldn’t take with it.

What Is Ozempic?

A man reviewing the Ozempic pen
A man reviewing the Ozempic pen

Ozempic, also known as semaglutide, is an FDA-approved medication that is used to treat type 2 diabetes in adults.


Sometimes, it can be prescribed to help patients lose weight, especially during chronic weight management, since it can help the patient feel fuller, but this is an off-label use so it’s not approved for that purpose by the FDA.


Ozempic can improve blood sugar levels and also help in reducing the chance of major cardiovascular events like heart attack and stroke.


This drug is administered as a single injection per week, usually along with a controlled lifestyle, diet, and exercise.


Note: People with type 1 diabetes should not use Ozempic. The drug can cause reduced blood sugar, and patients with type 1 diabetes are already at risk of hypoglycemia.

How Does Ozempic Work?

Ozempic mechanism of action to regulate blood sugar levels
Ozempic mechanism of action to regulate blood sugar levels

Ozempic mimics the effects of GLP-1 (glucagon-like-peptide), a hormone that helps regulate blood sugar levels. The effect of Ozempic appears in three primary ways:


  • Firstly, it increases insulin secretion, especially when the blood sugar levels are high. Patients with type 2 diabetes may have reduced sensitivity to insulin, but having more insulin in the bloodstream might still help.
  • Secondly, it can reduce glucagon secretion, a hormone that helps the liver release its stored glucose into the bloodstream.
  • Lastly, Ozempic also slows down the gastric emptying process, which is the process of moving food from the stomach into the small intestine. By doing so, the drug reduces the risk of blood sugar spikes after meals.

Many patients who took this drug also reported that they had a reduced appetite for food, which is another indirect effect of the medication that helps in reducing the incoming food and, in return, reduces the blood sugar levels and helps with weight management.

How to Use Ozempic

Different Ozempic dosing from 1 mg to 0.5 mg to 0.25 mg
Different Ozempic dosing from 1 mg to 0.5 mg to 0.25 mg

Ozempic is often started with a small dose that is gradually increased every four weeks. The initial dose could be 0.25 mg, and then it may increase to 0.5 mg and then 1 mg.


Depending on your condition, the doctor will prescribe your first dose. The first couple of injections will mostly be administered by your doctor to monitor the effect of the drug on you.


A healthcare professional should tell you how you can inject yourself or have someone inject you at home. If that’s impossible for you, visiting the doctor weekly for your injection is always an option.


If you settle for home injection, you have three possible injection sites: the abdomen, the thigh, or the upper arm. You mustn’t inject in the same site two weeks in a row to avoid injection site complications.


Here’s what to keep in mind when you use Ozempic:

  • Don’t use other brands that have the same active ingredient (semaglutide) along with Ozempic, like Wegovy and Rybelsus, as this could lead to unexpected sudden blood sugar drops.
  • While Ozempic can be taken with or without food, eating at least three meals a day is essential to prevent the risk of hypoglycemia.
  • If you’re injecting at home, have a clear look at the vial before injecting. The liquid is supposed to be clear. If it’s cloudy, don’t inject it and reach out to your doctor or pharmacist.
  • If you’re not a fan of aspirating your medicine from vials, you may use Ozempic injection pens. They contain more than one injection and are more convenient.

Ozempic Side Effects

Ozempic side effect includes nausea and vomitting
Ozempic side effect includes nausea and vomitting

Like most medications, Ozempic has a list of side effects that you should keep in mind before using the medicine. Some of the most common side effects include:


  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Headache and exhaustion
  • Flu symptoms like sore throat and runny nose
  • Low blood sugar, especially if the patient doesn’t eat well
  • Diarrhea or constipation

The severity of these side effects is often mild, and their incidence also reduces with time. Nevertheless, you should report any side effects to your doctor, as you may sometimes underestimate a side effect that can soon become problematic or signal an allergic reaction.


There are also some serious side effects you should be aware of. If you experience the following, you should immediately contact your doctor or visit a hospital.


These side effects are:


  • Vision changes, like blurry vision or the inability to perceive things correctly
  • An extreme light-headed feeling, as if you may lose consciousness
  • Feeling your heart beating hard in your chest (pounding) which could be worse if the patient already has a heart disease.
  • Feeling or seeing a lump in your neck (thyroid tumors that can progress to thyroid cancer if not managed)
  • Severe pain in your stomach that may extend to your back
  • Difficulty in swallowing food
  • Feeling that you can't catch your breath
  • Urinating less than usual and/or seeing blood in the urine
  • Bloody diarrhea
  • Severe mood changes which can be accompanied by thoughts of self-harm

Note: According to your current physical condition, your doctor may ask you to watch for additional side effects, as the list above isn’t complete.

Physical Conditions That May Prevent You From Using Ozempic

No drug is suitable for all patients, and Ozempic is no exception. Below are the conditions that may have your doctor prescribe another medication:

Pregnancy

A pregnant woman holding her mid-section
A pregnant woman holding her mid-section

If you’re pregnant or planning to become pregnant soon, you should let your doctor know about it so they can weigh the benefits against the risks.


There isn’t enough evidence to tell whether Ozempic will harm your unborn baby.

Besides the unknown effect on the baby, Ozempic can cause reduced appetite and overall weight loss, which isn’t healthy during pregnancy.


If you’re already on Ozempic and planning to become pregnant, your doctor will ask you to stop the medication at least two months before pregnancy.

Lactation

A woman breast feeding her baby
A woman breast feeding her baby

Ozempic is noticed to be excreted in animal breast milk, but there have been no human trials as of writing.


If you’re breastfeeding, it’s best to refrain from taking Ozempic.

Eye Problems

A Doctor talking to her patient about vision problems
A Doctor talking to her patient about vision problems

Although rarely, Ozempic can create vision distortions. This risk may increase if you already have eye problems, especially if they result from your diabetes, like retinopathy.

Kidney Disease

Most drugs are filtered through the kidney to be excreted in the urine later.


If you have kidney issues, your body might not filter Ozempic completely from your blood, which can increase the risk of side effects.

Pancreas Issues

Ozempic causes the pancreas to secrete extra insulin, which isn’t a problem if your pancreas is healthy.

If you have issues with your pancreas, you should refrain from taking this drug.

Precautions While Using Ozempic

A woman dosing herself with Ozempic
A woman dosing herself with Ozempic
Assuming that you’re a healthy individual who’s cleared by the doctor to use Ozempic, you should still keep the following precautions in mind.

Missing a Dose

Ozempic is injected weekly. If you forget to take the dose on the required day, you should administer the dose as soon as possible to get your blood sugar back in check.


If you miss your dose by five days, then it’s better to wait until the time of the next dose to avoid messing up your schedule and body chemistry.


Most importantly, keep in touch with your doctor during that period.

Taking an Extra Dose

If you take an extra dose by mistake, you should immediately visit a hospital if you can. If not, you must call the Poison Control helpline (1-800-222-1222).


Overdosing might cause many side effects to appear at once. You should do your best to reach out for help before these effects start to show up.

Ozempic Drug Interactions

A man removing the cover off an Ozempic dosing pen
A man removing the cover off an Ozempic dosing pen

Ozempic is a generally safe drug as long as you’re using it according to your doctor’s instructions, but it can sometimes have drug interactions with other drugs you use by accident.


Let your doctor know about any drugs you’re taking in general. It’s important to let them know if you’re taking any of the following drugs in particular:

Insulin

While many drug interactions could be unpredictable, Ozempic will most definitely cause reduced blood sugar levels if taken with insulin.


If you’re already on insulin before taking Ozempic, you’ll likely have to reduce your insulin dose, which depends on your condition and your doctor’s opinion.

Sulfonylureas

Drugs that belong to the sulfonylureas, like glipizide, glyburide, and metformin, work similarly to Ozempic. They cause more insulin secretion by the pancreas, which may dangerously reduce blood sugar levels.


You don’t have to completely stop taking sulfonylureas. Just let your doctor know so they can reduce your dose.

Diuretics

You’ll lose more fluid than usual if you take diuretics like bumetanide, furosemide, and ethacrynic acid.


Patients who take diuretics often do so to get rid of excess fluids. However, Ozempic and diuretics can interact and increase the risk or worsen already existing side effects of Ozempic.


Vomiting and diarrhea, in particular, are an extra risk because they already put you at risk of dehydration. Pair that with the diuretic effect, and you’ll lose a dangerous amount of fluids.

Non-Steroidal Anti Inflammatory Drugs

NSAIDs are among the most common pain medications to use, and some of them can be over-the-counter medicines. But they can increase the risk of kidney problems. If you’re taking Ozempic, NSAIDs might worsen existing side effects like diarrhea.


Unfortunately, some conditions are too painful to endure without pain medications. As such, you should inform your doctor so they can put you on different pain medications or at least monitor your condition for any side effects.

Beta-blockers

Beta-blockers are often used to treat high blood pressure in hypertensive patients. Some of the most common ones are propranolol, bisoprolol, and atenolol.


The primary issue with beta-blockers is that they can mask the symptoms of hypoglycemia. If you’re experiencing low blood sugar, you’d want to feel these symptoms as they are early signs.


Having these symptoms masked will allow the hypoglycemia to worsen. If it progresses to a hypoglycemic coma, it could be fatal.

Calcium Channel Blockers

These medications are also used to treat high blood pressure, but they don’t mask the symptoms of hypoglycemia.


However, they may interact with Ozempic and cause severe constipation. While that may not be as serious as beta-blockers, it’ll seriously affect your quality of life.

Final Words

Ozempic is an overall safe drug that doctors prescribe both for handling type 2 diabetes and for overweight patients to help them manage their weight.


The drug has a list of potential side effects, but fortunately, most of these effects are rare, and the common ones are not unbearable.


However, care should be taken not to use this drug if you’re taking any of the medications we mentioned above. Also, if you’re pregnant or breastfeeding, you should refrain from using it.


Lastly, please ensure you take the appropriate dose at the appropriate time per week to avoid any dosage issues.

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