Victoza is one of today’s best treatment options for diabetes management but like all medications, it’s important to understand how and why it can improve your blood sugars.
In this article, we’ll look at how it works, if it’s useful in both type 1 and type 2 diabetes, and the most common side effects.
What is Victoza?
Liraglutide — under the brand name Victoza from Novo Nordisk — is a GLP-1 analog, also known as a glucagon-like peptide-1 or an “incretin mimetics.”
Taken via injection once a day, it works to improve your blood sugar in several ways:
- Increases your body’s natural insulin production
- Reduces your appetite which leads to weight-loss
- Reduces the amount of glucose produced by your liver
- Delays the release of food from your stomach into the small intestine
- Helps you eat less because you feel full sooner due to delayed digestion
It’s important you take Victoza at the same time every day, injecting it into body fat — not muscle. And make sure to rotate your injection site to prevent creating scar tissue which can affect the absorbency of the medication over time.
If you’re taking insulin at the same time as your Victoza injection, also make sure to inject these two things in two separate areas to ensure the full efficacy of both.
If you forget to take Victoza by more than a couple of hours, talk to your doctor. Most likely, you’ll be advised to simply skip that day’s Victoza dose and take your next dose at your normal time.
If you lose or gain weight, make changes in your diet, become less or more physically active every day, you may need to make an adjustment in your Victoza dose. The healthier your lifestyle habits are in general, the less Victoza you’ll need.
Victoza may impact the effect of other diabetes medications you’re taking — including your insulin doses and oral medications. Be sure to remind your doctor of all of your medications before starting Victoza.
Lastly, you can take Victoza with or without food.
Who can take Victoza?
While Victoza was originally intended for use in people with type 2 diabetes, more and more people with type 1 diabetes are taking it, too.
One aspect of Victoza that will not be effective in a patient with type 1 diabetes is how it increases insulin secretion. In a person with type 1 diabetes, this simply won’t happen since your body is already struggling to produce any insulin in the first place.
However, the other benefits of Victoza can benefit people with type 1 and type 2 diabetes.
A 2018 study determined that liraglutide does help people with type 1 diabetes improve overall blood sugar management, reducing their HbA1c slightly, and led to weight-loss.
By delaying the digestion and release of food from the stomach into the small intestine, this can help a person with type 1 diabetes prevent post-meal high blood sugar levels.
Too often, in type 1 diabetes management, it’s difficult to get the prime efficacy of your insulin dose for a meal timed well with the digestion of that meal. The result is a temporary high blood sugar during the first hour after eating.
Victoza can lessen this tremendously.
You should talk to your doctor before taking Victoza if
- You have a history of problems with your pancreas, kidneys, or liver
- You have issues with digestion or gastroparesis
- You are pregnant or plan to become pregnant soon
- You are breastfeeding
You shouldn’t take Victoza if
- You or a family member have had MTC or Multiple Endocrine Neoplasia Syndrome type 2 (MEN 2)
- You have any allergies to the ingredients of Victoza
- You have a history of thyroid cancer
Common side effects of Victoza
The most common and most harmless side effects of Victoza revolve around digestion because of the way it delays your stomach’s digestion process. There are multiple benefits to this detail, but only if you can tolerate the side-effects.
According to the manufacturer, side effects include:
- Decreased appetite
- Indigestion / heartburn
If you stop taking Victoza suddenly, you’ll likely experience nausea in less than one day, so this withdrawal side effect shouldn’t linger for more than a day or two.
Serious (less common) side effects of Victoza
- Thyroid tumors — possibly cancerous
- Swelling in your neck
- Hoarseness in throat
- Difficulty swallowing
- Shortness of breath
- Pain in your abdomen or back
- Low blood sugar
- Discuss this with your doctor to adjust the dosage or other meds
- Worsened kidney issues and kidney failure
- Gallbladder problems
- Pain in your stomach
- Yellowed skin
- Yellow in the whites of your eyes
The concern regarding thyroid tumors is based on the results of Victoza and similar medications in rats and mice. Some rats and mice developed thyroid tumors, some of which were cancerous.
Interested in using Victoza for your own diabetes management? Talk to your doctor to determine whether this might be an appropriate medication for you.
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I just started Victoza two weeks ago the past two days I have been throwing up and having diarrhea and terrible terrible headaches how long should these side effects last Will they ever go away
Christel Oerum says
If the side effects continue to bother you even after you’ve stopped the medication you should reach out to your doctor so she can help you find a solution
I am type 1 and overweight and I see the endo nurse because my endo doc is scheduled out a year in advance. Last time I was there the endo nurse told me she wouldn’t prescribe anything but metformin, she may have mentioned the other insulins like Victoza are for type 2 and suggested I talk to the weightloss clinic (which the weightless clinic said they don’t handle that). I’m afraid to take metformin again because of the awful side effects. I just don’t understand why something like this they would be against. So frustrating because I’m really interested in this and others like it.
Christel Oerum says
I’m sorry you don’t feel like your team is listening to you. I can’t say why they wouldn’t prescribe you Victoza, but it’s obviously not the right drug for everyone and that might be part of their assessment. You could discuss it with your PCP or with your endo when you get to him/her