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If you are being treated for type 2 diabetes but still have high blood sugar levels, your healthcare provider might suggest drugs like Ozempic or Victoza.
Read on to learn about the similarities and differences between these two injectable diabetes medications.
What are Ozempic and Victoza?
Ozempic and Victoza are injectable medications used to treat type 2 diabetes mellitus. They belong to a drug class known as glucagon-like peptide-1 receptor agonists (GLP-1 RAs). Healthcare providers typically prescribe these medications when other drugs—such as metformin—aren’t effective enough at controlling a person’s blood sugar (Collins, 2021).
Other examples of GLP-1 receptor agonists include Trulicity and Rybelsus. These drugs work by improving the effects of insulin in the body and increasing feelings of fullness after eating, which can sometimes help with weight loss.
The key difference between Ozempic and Victoza is how often you use them. Those who use Ozempic inject it once per week, and those who use Victoza inject it daily.
What is Ozempic?
Ozempic (see Important Safety Information) is a brand-name drug that contains the active ingredient semaglutide.
After your provider shows you how to use Ozempic, you administer it yourself as an injection, or via the help of someone else, once a week through subcutaneous injection (under-the-skin) in your stomach or thigh (FDA, 2017).
The starting dose is usually .25 mg once weekly. After four weeks, your healthcare provider may increase the dose to .5 mg weekly. If, after an additional four weeks, you require more blood sugar control, they may increase the dose again to 1 mg weekly, which is the maximum dose (FDA, 2017).
You can take your weekly semaglutide with or without food (FDA, 2017).
What is Victoza?
Victoza is the brand name of a generic drug called liraglutide. It is an injectable liquid that healthcare providers use to improve blood sugar levels in people with type 2 diabetes.
You administer it daily subcutaneously in your stomach or thigh, and you can take it with or without food (FDA, 2019).
The starting dose of Victoza is typically .6 mg daily for one week. If you need more blood sugar control, your healthcare provider may increase your dose to 1.2 mg daily. If your body does not respond to this dose increase after one week, your healthcare provider may increase the dose again to 1.8 mg daily (FDA, 2019).
Conditions treated with Ozempic and Victoza
The FDA approves medications like Ozempic and Victoza for specific uses which are described in detail on each drug’s official labeling and summarized in the sections below.
Healthcare providers may also decide to prescribe glucagon-like peptide-1 receptor agonists like Ozempic or Victoza for off-label (“non-official”) uses like weight loss.
The FDA first approved Ozempic for adults with type 2 diabetes—who also have heart disease—to improve their high blood sugar levels and reduce the risk of cardiovascular events—such as heart attack or stroke.
Healthcare providers may also choose to prescribe Ozempic off-label to help people achieve and maintain their weight loss goals, even if they don’t have diabetes or heart disease (Collins, 2021).
Clinical trials have shown semaglutide can help with weight loss in people with type 2 diabetes, and many people with type 2 diabetes achieve healthier blood sugar levels after losing weight (Granhall, 2019; Pratley, 2019). However, only one brand of semaglutide, an injectable drug called Wegovy (see Important Safety Information), is FDA-approved for weight loss.
Like Ozempic, Victoza is used for the treatment of type 2 diabetes and reduces cardiovascular events in those with type 2 diabetes.
Some people have also experienced weight loss while on Victoza. The active ingredient in Victoza, liraglutide, is also available under the brand name Saxenda, which is FDA-approved for weight loss if combined with a reduced-calorie diet in people with obesity (Victoza, n.d.).
Side effects of Victoza and Ozempic
The most common side effects of Ozempic and Victoza are (FDA, 2017; FDA, 2019):
- Abdominal pain
- Decreased appetite
- Dyspepsia (indigestion)
While rare, severe side effects of Ozempic and Victoza may include (FDA, 2017; FDA, 2019):
- Allergic reactions: Some people may be allergic to Ozempic and Victoza. Medication allergy symptoms include rashes or hives, facial flushing, chest tightness, and difficulty breathing.
- Inflammation of your pancreas (pancreatitis): Signs of pancreatitis include vomiting, abdominal pain, and back pain. Pancreatitis can be very dangerous if you do not treat it quickly.
- Thyroid cancer: Ozempic and Victoza both carry black box warnings from the FDA about an increased risk of developing medullary thyroid carcinoma. However, this rare side effect has only been seen in animal studies. Researchers aren’t clear if the same risk applies to people.
- Vision problems: Lowering your blood sugar too quickly may cause blurred vision and sometimes worsen a condition called diabetic retinopathy.
Ozempic and Victoza warnings
Before prescribing Ozempic or Victoza, your healthcare provider will go over your current medical and health history. This medication may not be safe for everyone, so they’ll especially need to know if you have any of the following conditions or factors (FDA, 2017; FDA, 2019):
- You have a history of pancreatitis
- You have a history of medullary thyroid carcinoma (MTC)
- You have type 1 diabetes mellitus
- You have a personal or family history of Multiple Endocrine Neoplasia syndrome type 2 (MEN 2)
- You have an allergy to other GLP-1 receptor agonists (examples: Byetta, Bydureon, Saxenda, Trulicity)
If you are pregnant or breastfeeding, there is not enough research to determine whether either of these medications are safe to take. Let your provider know if you are breastfeeding, currently pregnant, or planning to become pregnant. They can work with you to decide if the benefits of Ozempic or Victoza outweigh their potential risks (FDA, 2017; FDA, 2019).
Victoza and Ozempic drug interactions
Ozempic and Victoza can also interact with other type 2 diabetes medications. You should not take Ozempic or Victoza if you take insulin, sulfonylureas (e.g., Metformin), or glinides. If taken with these medications, there is a chance of hypoglycemia (very low blood sugar) (Dungan, 2022).
Additionally, be sure to follow your healthcare provider’s medical advice regarding any oral medications you are taking. Because Ozempic and Victoza delay gastric emptying (causing you to feel fuller), they may affect how your body absorbs oral medications (FDA, 2017; FDA, 2019).
Differences and similarities between Victoza vs. Ozempic
Key similarities and differences between Rybelsus and Ozempic include:
If you have any medical questions or concerns, please talk to your healthcare provider. The articles on Health Guide are underpinned by peer-reviewed research and information drawn from medical societies and governmental agencies. However, they are not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.
- Collins, L. & Costello, R.A. (2021). Glucagon-like peptide-1 receptor agonists. [Updated June 25, 2021]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Retrieved on Feb. 9, 2022 from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK551568/
- Dungan, K., & DeSantis, A. (2022). Glucagon-like peptide 1 receptor agonists for the treatment of type 2 diabetes mellitus. UpToDate. Retrieved from https://www.uptodate.com/contents/glucagon-like-peptide-1-receptor-agonists-for-the-treatment-of-type-2-diabetes-mellitus
- United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA). (2017). Highlights of Prescribing Information: Ozempic. Retrieved on February 22, 2022, from https://www.accessdata.fda.gov/drugsatfda_docs/label/2017/209637lbl.pdf
- United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA). (2019). Highlights of Prescribing Information: Victoza. Retrieved on February 22, 2022, from https://www.accessdata.fda.gov/drugsatfda_docs/label/2019/022341s031lbl.pdf
- Victoza. (n.d.). Victoza FAQ. Retrieved March 2, 2021 from https://www.victoza.com/faq/About-Victoza.html
Felix Gussone is a physician, health journalist and a Manager, Medical Content & Education at Ro.