Ozempic is a popular type 2 diabetes drug that lowers blood sugars and helps improve HbA1c levels, while also helping those who take it to lose or maintain their weight.
In this article, we’ll cover 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 for a glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1) agonist medication.
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 type 2 diabetes drug is only taken once per week, due to its long duration of action.
What are the benefits of Ozempic?
Ozempic has three main benefits for people living with diabetes:
Improved blood sugar management
Ozempic helps improve blood sugar levels by increasing the amount of insulin the pancreas releases while also inhibiting the release of glucagon from the liver. This results in lower blood sugars and A1C levels.
Weight loss or weight maintenance
Ozempic helps reduce food intake by lowering appetite and slowing 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) for people with type 1 diabetes or even without any type of diabetes to help with weight loss.
Read more: Can Ozempic Help You Lose Weight?
Lower risk of cardiovascular diseases
Ozempic has been proven to reduce the risk of major heart attack, stroke, or death in adults with type 2 diabetes and heart disease.
Why would you be prescribed Ozempic?
Ozempic is only FDA-approved for people who have type 2 diabetes. Not everyone with type 2 diabetes will be prescribed Ozempic because many people are able to manage their blood sugar levels with diet, exercise, and sometimes with insulin therapy.
However, if you’re struggling to maintain blood sugar levels within a healthy range with regular diabetes medications, or if you’re struggling with insulin resistance, you may be prescribed Ozempic as a supplement to your diabetes treatment plan.
Many people who have type 2 diabetes and existing heart disease are also prescribed Ozempic because Ozempic reduces the risk of stroke, heart attack, and premature deaths in this population.
What are the side effects?
The most common side effects include:
- Stomach pain
- Weight loss
- Low blood sugar, especially if you take insulin
Although rare, more severe complications may include:
- Thyroid tumors, including cancer
- Changes in vision (worsening of 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 worsening of your vision, or if you are feeling weak or in pain after taking the medication.
Read more: Ozempic Side Effects: What You Need to Know
Ozempic comes as a liquid solution inside prefilled, disposable pens. You inject the drug subcutaneously (under your skin) once per week.
You can take Ozempic with or without food.
Pen dose strength
Ozempic pens come in several different strengths that are written as milligrams of semaglutide (Ozempic’s active drug) per milliliter of solution (mg/mL).
|Strength||Dose given per injection|
|2 mg/1.5 mL (this may also be written as 1.34 mg/mL)||0.25 mg or 0.5 mg|
|2 mg/3 mL (0.68 mg/mL)||0.25 mg or 0.5 mg|
|4 mg/3 mL (1.34 mg/mL)||1 mg|
|8 mg/3 mL (2.68 mg/mL)||2 mg|
How much Ozempic do I take?
This will vary by patient and it will depend on your health history, health goals, and lifestyle.
However, most doctors will start patients on 0.2 mg once per week. It is important to take your Ozempic on the same day each week.
After a few weeks, if you’re not having adverse side effects and you’re experiencing fewer blood sugar spikes after meals, your doctor may increase your dose to 0.5 mg.
If you’re still having blood sugar spikes with no adverse side effects, your doctor may increase your dose to 1mg once weekly or as high as 2mg once weekly.
0.5 mg, 1 mg, or 2 mg may be your final maintenance dose, but that varies by patient.
The maximum dose for Ozempic is 2 mg taken once weekly.
What happens if you take too much Ozempic?
Taking too much Ozempic can cause serious side effects, such as debilitating nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, stomach pain, and even low blood sugar (especially if you’re also on insulin) which can become fatal if not treated immediately.
If you’ve accidentally taken too much Ozempic, call your doctor immediately or seek emergency medical attention.
Can I miss a dose of Ozempic?
If you miss a dose of Ozempic, it is okay to take it a few days late, but if you’ve missed your dose more than 5 days ago, just skip that week’s dose and take your regularly scheduled dose on time.
You will not experience insulin resistance or weight gain from one missed dose. Try not to miss doses regularly, however, as the medication is most effective when taken consistently.
How to inject Ozempic
Check the Ozempic liquid in the pen visually before injecting. If there are any particles or discoloration present, do not use the pen.
Before injecting, clean the injection site with rubbing alcohol. Change the injection site each week to prevent injuries under the skin.
Ozempic is typically injected under the skin in the thigh, abdomen, or upper arm. Talk to your doctor about the best places for you to inject and how to rotate injection sites.
Who shouldn’t take Ozempic?
If you don’t have a prescription for Ozempic, do not take the medication.
It is not recommended for use if you are pregnant, planning on becoming pregnant, or if you are breastfeeding.
It is not recommended for people without diabetes, or those with prediabetes or type 1 diabetes, without the guidance of a physician.
Do not use Ozempic if you or any of your family members have ever had medullary thyroid carcinoma (MTC), or if you have Multiple Endocrine Neoplasia syndrome type 2 (MEN 2).
Do not use Ozempic if you are allergic to semaglutide. If you’re interested in trying a GLP-1 agonist but you’re allergic to semaglutide, you may opt for Victoza whose active ingredient is liraglutide.
Talk with your doctor if you have questions or concerns about starting Ozempic or if you’ve recently been prescribed the medication.
How I do stop taking Ozempic?
There are many reasons that you may want to stop taking Ozempic: maybe you’re experiencing adverse side effects, maybe you don’t like how the medication makes you feel, or maybe it’s gotten cost-prohibitive.
Make sure you talk with your doctor before stopping any diabetes medication, including Ozempic.
Your doctor will probably want you to wean your dose before stopping cold turkey. Be forewarned, however, that insulin resistance, food cravings, blood sugar levels, and weight may creep back up once you stop taking Ozempic.
You will want to have a plan in place, such as an alternative medication, exercise, or diet plan to help combat any rebound effects you may experience.
How does Ozempic improve diabetes management?
Lower blood sugar levels combined with weight loss or maintenance make diabetes management a lot easier. Additionally, studies have shown that lower A1Cs correlate with fewer diabetes complications over the long term.
It is much easier to maintain a lower A1C if you’re no longer struggling with insulin resistance, which Ozempic helps to combat. Weight loss may make physical activity easier as well.
Finally, because Ozempic lowers the risk of heart attack, stroke, and premature death in individuals with type 2 diabetes and heart disease, taking Ozempic as a prophylactic medication can vastly improve health outcomes because heart attack and stroke are known diabetes complications. \
Can Ozempic replace insulin?
No. Ozempic is not like insulin and it is not an insulin replacement.
If you’ve recently been prescribed Ozempic, do not stop taking your other diabetes medications unless your doctor has specifically told you to.
Ozempic lowers blood sugars over time, but it does not cause acute low blood sugars in the way that insulin does.
If you normally take insulin for food, you will need to continue to do so. If you’ve been on Ozempic for several months, you may notice that your insulin needs are gradually decreasing but this rarely, if ever, completely takes away the need to take insulin for your diabetes.
Can I take Ozempic with other diabetes medications?
Depending on the other medication, yes.
Ozempic can be taken in combination with metformin, insulin, or other medications, but be sure to ask your doctor if it will be contraindicated with any other medications you take, and make sure your doctor knows of every other medication you take before starting Ozempic.
Ozempic cannot be combined with Wegovy, Victoza, Trulicity, or Mounjaro, however. These are other GLP-1 agonist medications and it is dangerous to combine them with Ozempic.
Does Ozempic need to be refrigerated?
Yes. Ozempic should be stored in the refrigerator between 36°F to 46°F. It can be used for up to 56 days after opening.
How do I get a prescription for Ozempic?
Talk with your doctor if you want a prescription for Ozempic. If you’re struggling with weight loss and insulin resistance and have type 2 diabetes, they should be able to write you a prescription.
If you do not have type 2 diabetes but live with another form of diabetes and are struggling with insulin resistance, talk with your doctor about your treatment options.
If you do not have any type of diabetes and are looking to lose weight, talk with your doctor about FDA-approved weight loss medications that may be safer for you, without the side effects that Ozempic can have.