All About Ozempic

ozempic pen

I have noticed a lot of commercials for Ozempic, a medication for type 2 diabetes. If you are wondering if this medication can help you manage your diabetes, reach out to your doctor. In this article I explain how to take Ozempic, how it works, its impact on diabetes and heart disease, side effects, and cost.

How Do I Take Ozempic?

            Ozempic comes in a pen and is a weekly injection. You may find only taking it once a week is helpful because your entire schedule doesn’t have to revolve around taking medications. Or you may forget to take it, since you only take it once a week. You know yourself best. If you take Ozempic, may be helpful to set a reminder and leave the Ozempic pen somewhere you frequently see it, like on your bedside table. If you miss a dose, take Ozempic as soon as you remember as long as it is within 5 days. If it has been longer than 5 days, just skip the last dose and resume your regular schedule [1].

When first prescribed Ozempic, your doctor will likely start you on a low dose of 0.25 mg, then increase to 0.5 mg after a few weeks if tolerated. As long as you are not having any side effects, it can be increased to 1 mg. Ozempic can be taken with or without meals [1].

            To take Ozempic, clean off your skin with an alcohol prep pad. Pick an area with “extra padding”, such as your stomach, thigh, or upper arm. Pinch your skin, then inject Ozempic. Every time you give it, change the location so scar tissue does not form.

How Does Ozempic Work?

            Ozempic’s generic name is semaglutide. It is made by the company Novo Nordisk. The class of drug is a glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1) receptor agonist. It works in three ways. One, it helps your pancreas make more insulin to help lower your blood sugar. Two, it also works in the brain to help decrease your appetite, so you eat less. Three, it helps slow down how quickly your stomach empties into the small intestine. Carbohydrates don’t enter the blood stream as quickly, so blood sugar doesn’t spike [2]. Slowing down the stomach also helps you feel full, so you eat less.

What Will Ozempic Do for my Diabetes?

            An article published in Drug Design, Development, and Therapy looked at how Ozempic affected A1C across several studies. On average, A1C dropped 1.2% to 1.5% for diabetics who took 0.5 mg and 1.5% to 1.8% for diabetics taking 1 mg. Keep in mind many of these studies lasted 30 to 56 weeks, so it is important to take your medications exactly as prescribed by your doctor [3]. As an added benefit, many people lost an average of 8 to 9 pounds while taking 0.5 mg of Ozempic and 9 to 14 pounds while taking 1 mg of Ozempic. When researchers looked at body composition, most of the weight loss was fat.

I Heard Ozempic Can Lower My Chances of Having a Heart Attack. Is That True?

            It does appear so, although this benefit is very small. In a 2016 study published in the New England Journal of Medicine, researchers gave subjects Ozempic or a placebo. There was a total of 3297 people in the study, with 1648 taking Ozempic and 1649 taking the placebo. The researchers measured death from a heart attack, nonfatal heart attacks, and nonfatal strokes [4]. Here are their results:

Outcome Ozempic Group (total of 1648 people) Placebo Group (total of 1649 people)
Death from a heart attack 44 people (2.7%) 46 people (2.8%)
Nonfatal heart attack 47 people (2.9%) 64 people (3.9%)
Nonfatal stroke 27 people (1.6%) 44 people (2.7%)
Hospitalization from heart failure 59 people (3.6%) 54 people (3.3%)

What are the Side Effects?

            The most common side effects are nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. Other common unpleasant side effects include constipation and pain in your stomach [1]. Below is a table from Novo Nordisk about how frequently these side effects may occur:

Unpleasant Side Effect Placebo 0.5 mg of Ozempic 1 mg of Ozempic
Nausea 6.1% 15.8% 20.3%
Vomiting 2.3% 5% 9.2%
Diarrhea 2% 8.5% 8.8%
Abdominal pain 4.6% 7.3% 5.7%
Constipation 1.5% 5% 3.1%

Is There Any Reason I Shouldn’t Take Ozempic?

Novo Nordisk warn that if you have a family or personal history of medullary thyroid cancer or multiple endocrine neoplasia syndrome type 2, don’t take Ozempic. Ozempic should be stopped if you develop pancreatitis [3]. Ozempic only works if you have type 2 diabetes.

The same 2016 article published in The New Journal England of Medicine found that more people taking Ozempic developed retinopathy then those taking the placebo. Diabetic retinopathy affects the eyes and in severe cases causes blindness. In the 2016 study, 50 people taking Ozempic developed retinopathy while 29 people in the placebo group did. This included leakage of blood in the eye and blindness.

Cost

            The estimated retail cost of Ozempic is between $944 and $1,000 per pen, which has 2 mg of medicine in it. Coupon cards may be available and/or you may have great insurance to cover the cost [5].

            Always talk to your doctor about your medications and the correct way to take them. If you are having trouble affording your medications or the side effects are very unpleasant, let them know. Good doctors prescribe medications based on your personal medical history, lifestyle, and financial situation.

*Novo Nordisk has not authored, reviewed or contributed to the text of this publication in whole or in part.

ozempic pen

Works Cited

[1] Novo Nordisk, “HIGHLIGHTS OF PRESCRIBING INFORMATION,” [Online]. Available: https://www.novo-pi.com/ozempic.pdf#guide.
[2] Pharmacy at Western Virgina University, [Online]. Available: https://pharmacy.hsc.wvu.edu/media/2792/ozempic-semaglutide.pdf.
[3] F. Gomez-Peralta and C. Abreu, “Profile of semaglutide in the management of type 2 diabetes: design, development, and place in therapy,” Drug Design, Development and Therapy, 2019. [Online]. Available: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6388990/.
[4] S. P. Marso, S. C. Bain, A. Consoli, F. G. Eliaschewitz, E. Jódar and L. A. Leiter, “Semaglutide and Cardiovascular Outcomes in Patients with Type 2 Diabetes,” The New England Journal of Medicine, 2016. [Online]. Available: https://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/nejmoa1607141.
[5] GoodRx, “Ozempic,” GoodRx, 2020. [Online]. Available: https://www.goodrx.com/ozempic.

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