Ozempic is one of the many injectable diabetes medications on the market today. While it’s similar to others on the market, it offers several unique details, too. 

In this article, we’ll look at how Ozempic works, who can take it, and the most common side effects.

Ozempic side effects

What is Ozempic?

Semaglutide — known under the brand name Ozempic and manufactured by Novo Nordisk — is a glucagon-like peptide 1 (GLP-1) agonist.

Taken via injection once per week, Ozempic works to improve your blood sugar in several ways:

  • Increases your body’s insulin sensitivity
  • Reduces your appetite which can lead to weight loss
  • Reduces the amount of glucose produced by your liver
  • Delays the emptying of food from your stomach into the small intestine

In a clinical study, Ozempic reduced the patient’s A1c by 1.4 to 1.6 percent after 30 weeks of treatment. It also reduced fasting blood sugar levels by 41 to 44 mg/dL over that time period.

Who can take Ozempic?

Ozempic is only recommended for people living with non-insulin-dependent diabetes (typically type 2 diabetes). Ozempic is not a substitute for insulin.

Ozempic is not recommended as the first pharmaceutical treatment you try as a person with type 2 diabetes. Instead, medications like Metformin would be used first, and Ozempic could be an eventual choice if other options aren’t effective.

The dosage of Ozempic should start small and be increased gradually to the full dose over the course of 4 weeks. This should be managed closely by your healthcare team.

If you miss a dose, talk to your doctor as soon as you realize. Depending on how many days it’s been since your missed dose, you may be able to take it as soon as you remember. If it’s too close to your next Ozempic dose, you may be advised to wait until your next dose.

You should talk to your doctor before taking Ozempic if

  • You have a history of problems with your pancreas or kidneys
  • You have a history of diabetic retinopathy
  • You are pregnant or plan to become pregnant soon
  • You are breastfeeding

You shouldn’t take Ozempic if

  • You have a history of pancreatitis
  • You are under 18 years old
  • You have a history of thyroid tumors or thyroid cancer
  • You or a family member ever had MTC or Multiple Endocrine Neoplasia syndrome type 2 (MEN 2)

Common Ozempic side effects

According to the manufacturer, the most common and most harmless side effects of Ozempic include:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Abdominal pain
  • Constipation

These side effects are directly related to the drug’s impact on your stomach’s rate of digestion which benefits your blood sugars. 

Serious (less common) Ozempic side effects 

  • Thyroid tumors — possibly cancerous
    • Swelling in your neck
    • Hoarseness in throat
    • Difficulty swallowing
    • Shortness of breath
  • Pancreatitis
    • Pain in your abdomen or back
  • Changes in your vision
    • Tell your healthcare team immediately
  • Low blood sugar 
    • Discuss this with your doctor to adjust the dosage or other meds
  • Worsened kidney issues and kidney failure
  • Serious allergic reaction
    • Itching
    • Rash
    • Difficulty breathing

The concern regarding thyroid tumors is based on the results of Ozempic and similar medications in rats and mice. Some rats and mice developed thyroid tumors, some of which were cancerous.  It’s not known if Ozempic has this effect in humans.

Interested in using Ozempic for your own diabetes management? Talk to your doctor to determine whether this might be an appropriate medication for you.