If you have type 2 diabetes mellitus, chances are you’ve heard of drugs like Ozempic®, Rybelsus®, Trulicity®, and Victoza®. These meds are part of the glucagon-like peptide 1 receptor agonist (GLP-1) drug class. Meaning they work similarly to treat the same condition or disease. But, they’re also becoming increasingly sought-after for their treatment of obesity and are often prescribed off-label to help patients lose weight.
Indeed, studies have shown that drugs like Ozempic and Victoza can lead to weight loss when prescribed. The same Danish pharmaceutical company, Novo Nordisk, manufactures both. The drugs are used in diabetes management and are surprisingly similar.
So when debating between Ozempic vs Victoza, which one should you choose?
So let’s talk about Victoza vs Ozempic and their key differences and similarities.
Victoza is a brand name for the drug liraglutide. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved it for the treatment of type 2 diabetes in adults in 2010. In 2019, the FDA approved Victoza for the treatment of type 2 diabetes in children 10 years of age and older.
Victoza was the first of its kind (not including insulin) that the FDA approved for children since approving the diabetes drug metformin in 2000.
Liraglutide works by helping the pancreas release the right amount of insulin when blood sugar levels are too high. It also decreases appetite and delays gastric emptying (slowing digestion), helping promote a feeling of fullness and supporting weight loss.
As we talked briefly about above, liraglutide is a GLP-1 medication. It works by mimicking the GLP-1 incretin hormone your body already makes that communicates with your pancreas about how much insulin to release. By mimicking the hormone, it helps lower blood glucose levels in those with type 2 diabetes.
On top of that, liraglutide is also the active ingredient in the GLP-1 med Saxenda®, which the FDA approved for weight loss. However, Victoza has a lower dose than Saxenda.
Ozempic made major waves in the news. From The New York Times to National Public Radio to social media outlets like TikTok and Instagram—it’s everywhere. But aside from reading about it seemingly daily, there’s much to say about its effectiveness and ability to help people with type 2 diabetes and obesity.
Let’s back up, Ozempic is a brand name for semaglutide, and the FDA approved it in 2017 for the treatment of type 2 diabetes in adults. Like Victoza, it has a sister drug, Wegovy®, which also has semaglutide as its active ingredient.
The FDA approved Wegovy® in 2021 for weight loss in adults in patients with a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or greater or with a BMI of 27 or greater and at least one weight-related condition like high blood pressure or high cholesterol.
Ozempic works to lower blood sugar by helping the pancreas make more insulin when your blood glucose levels are high. It also prevents your liver from making or releasing too much sugar and slows gastric emptying—similar to liraglutide.
When used in conjunction with lifestyle changes—like increased physical activity and a healthier diet—Ozempic can lower the risk of cardiovascular events like heart attack, stroke, and even death in those with type 2 diabetes or known heart disease.
Great question. If Ozempic and Victoza are so similar, then which should you take to lose more weight?
Research suggests that semaglutide may be more effective for weight loss. For example, an open-label clinical trial published in 2020 in Diabetes & Metabolism included about 600 adults with type 2 diabetes who received either a once-weekly 1 mg semaglutide injection or a once-daily 1.2 mg liraglutide injection. Researchers discovered that after 30 weeks, those in the semaglutide group had lost almost 13 pounds as compared to about four pounds for those on liraglutide.
The semaglutide group also had lower hemoglobin A1C (HbA1c) levels, meaning average blood glucose levels over the last two to three months after the 30-week mark. So, Ozempic seems to be better for weight loss and regulating blood sugar levels in some people.
Both prescription drugs are injectable medications, but they differ slightly. Here’s how.
Victoza is a once-daily subcutaneous (under-the-skin) injection. You’ll choose your injection site on your upper arm, upper thigh, or stomach (abdomen).
The recommended dosing for Victoza start sy 0.6 mg daily, which you'll continue for at least one week (seven days) to help minimize any side effects. After the first week, you’ll increase to a 1.2 mg daily dose for at least one week. If you need additional glycemic control, you’ll increase to the 1.8 mg daily dose to maintain.
Ozempic (semaglutide) is typically a once-weekly injection in doses of 0.25 mg, 0.5 mg, 1 mg, or 2 mg. Like liraglutide, you’ll inject yourself in your upper arm, upper thigh, or stomach (abdomen).
The starting Ozempic dose is 0.25 mg weekly for the first four weeks. This schedule will help give your body a chance to get used to the medicine. At week five, your health care provider will increase the weekly dose, as needed, to 0.5 mg once weekly if you tolerate the medication well. After that, your provider may increase your dose by 0.5 mg every four weeks to a maximum of 2 mg.
Before taking any new medication, talk to your health care professional about potential side effects. Let your doctor know about your family history and any medications or supplements you’re taking. Your wellness and health are the top priority, so let your doctor know if you experience any side effects with Ozempic or Victoza. Here’s what to watch out for:
The most commonly reported side effects of Ozempic are gastrointestinal issues, such as nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, constipation, and abdominal pain.
Although extremely rare, here’s a list of the more serious Ozempic side effects that can occur:
possible thyroid tumors, including thyroid cancer
low blood sugar
inflammation of the pancreas (pancreatitis)
Here are the most common side effects when taking Victoza for weight loss:
Victoza’s prescribing information also notes some pretty serious side effects, although extremely rare. Here are what they include:
inflammation of the pancreas (pancreatitis)
low blood sugar (hypoglycemia)
kidney problems (kidney failure)
serious allergic reactions.
possible thyroid tumors, including thyroid cancer
As a note, Novo Nordisk’s websites for both drugs also warn that you shouldn’t take Ozempic or Victoza if “you or any of your family have ever had MTC or if you have an endocrine system condition called Multiple Endocrine Neoplasia syndrome type 2 (MEN 2).” Also, both meds aren’t meant for patients with type 1 diabetes.
No. Doctors advise not to take two medications from the GLP-1 receptor agonists family at the same time because it can cause an increased risk of serious side effects like low blood sugar.
However, if one med isn’t working for you, it’s totally possible to switch to another. So if you begin to experience side effects with one of them, your body may have fewer or more tolerable side effects on a different drug. Let your doctor know if something isn’t working for you so you have the opportunity to try something else.
The prescribing information for both diabetes medications detail that because of slow stomach emptying, your system may not properly absorb some oral medications properly.
Tell your doctor about meds you’re on or prescribed by another doctor, so they can make sure they’re remaining effective in your body while taking either Ozempic or Victoza.
Cost is one of the key differences between Ozempic and Victoza. The out-of-pocket list price as of April 2023 for all doses of Ozempic is $892.06 per 28-day supply. Along the same lines, the Victoza list price for the 2-Pen Package (0.6 & 1.2 mg doses) is $744.54, and the 3-Pen Package (1.8 mg dose) is $1,116.81; both packages are for a 30-day supply.
The good news is most insurance companies, including commercial and private insurance and government-funded programs like Medicare cover Victoza and Ozempic if a doctor prescribes it for the treatment of type 2 diabetes. That means your copay could be as little as $25 to $47 for a month's supply of either med.
Novo Nordisk gives a side-by-side comparison of the Ozempic vs Victoza cost differences on the Victoza website. We tested a couple of geographical areas, and both seem pretty comparable. You can explore how much it’ll cost for you here.
That decision is up to you and your doctor, but consider some important things before choosing Ozempic or Victoza.
Weekly semaglutide may appeal more to you than once-daily liraglutide when it comes to not only remembering the habit but injecting yourself. Your body may also be more receptive to one med over the other, and you could lose more body weight than indicated by the clinical trials.
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Access to GLP-1s prescriptions is now available as part of Found's weight-loss program. While GLP-1s are effective for weight loss, they are not clinically appropriate for everyone. Eligibility for a GLP-1 is based on a thorough evaluation of medical history, eating behavior, lab work, and insurance coverage. If a GLP-1 is not appropriate or affordable for you, Found providers can help determine if another effective medication is.
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