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Liraglutide

Liraglutide is a prescription medication that’s sold under two brand names. Each of the brand names delivers the same medication but for different reasons. Liraglutide is approved to be prescribed for weight loss under its Saxenda brand name. Under its Victoza brand name, it’s approved for the treatment of type 2 diabetes and certain other medical conditions. However, Victoza is also often prescribed for the off-label use of weight loss. Saxenda is not prescribed for diabetes.

No matter what the brand name, this medication has been proven to help patients to lose weight. It also reduces the risk of certain heart conditions and problems such as heart disease, strokes, and heart attacks. For those who are obese, this can be a good way to lower their weight and have less risk of these serious health problems. There may also be other reasons that a doctor prescribes liraglutide for off-label purposes.

When liraglutide is prescribed for weight loss, it’s usually prescribed for those with a body mass index, or BMI, of at least 30. It’s also generally defined when a person is obese and has other, related problems such as high blood pressure. Both brands of this medication are intended to be used along with a healthy diet and regular exercise. It’s essential not to take both of the liraglutide medications at the same time, even if they’re for different reasons.

How It Works

Liraglutide is a medication that is a glucagon-like peptide-1 receptor agonist. It’s been found during clinical trials to help patients lose more weight than they would with diet and exercise alone. This medication has several effects on the body to help treat high blood sugar and spur weight loss. The drug causes the body to make more insulin, which helps to get more sugar out of the blood and into the cells needed for energy use. It does this by mimicking a natural hormone that has this effect on insulin creation. The body treats this medication as a natural hormone and increases insulin production accordingly.

Liraglutide is an incretin mimetic. This means that it mimics the hormone incretin. When it pushes the pancreas to create more insulin, more sugar is taken out of the blood and put into the cells that need it for energy. Bodily tissues need sugar for power; they can’t get enough when it is kept in the blood.

When blood sugar is allowed to stay in the blood in high amounts, it can cause damage to several areas of the body. High blood sugar puts people at higher risk for heart problems, nerve problems, and even blindness. By getting the body to make more insulin, the blood sugar can be controlled much better. This medication pushes the body to create more insulin when there’s a higher glucose (sugar) level in the blood to take care of it.

However, liraglutide has several other effects on the body. It also causes the food in the stomach to leave the stomach more slowly. This has various effects on the body, including letting the sugar from the food enter more slowly into the bloodstream. Food exiting the stomach more slowly also gives you a feeling of being full that lasts longer. When people take liraglutide, they eat less because of this effect. This is what causes people to lose weight on this medication. It causes appetite suppression as well as increasing the heart rate, and these also help with weight loss. This medication also decreases the amount of glucagon that the body creates.

Warnings to Watch For

Certain medical conditions can keep patients from being able to take this medication. If a patient has multiple endocrine neoplasia type 2, they shouldn’t take this medication. The same is true if they have medullary thyroid cancer or a family history. This medication may also increase the risk of developing thyroid cancer. Signs that you have a thyroid tumor include shortness of breath, swelling or a lump in the neck, having a hoarse voice, and having trouble swallowing. Your doctor should know right away if you have these symptoms.

If you already have an issue with slow digestion, this medication may be contraindicated. If you’ve ever had trouble with your triglycerides level, gallbladder, pancreas, kidneys, or liver, your doctor needs to know before this is prescribed. You should also not take liraglutide if you’re already taking a similar medication like Trulicity, dulaglutide, albiglutide, Tanzeum, or exenatide, and taking Saxenda if you’re pregnant or breastfeeding is also not recommended. However, Victoza may be prescribed during pregnancy if you have gestational diabetes.

Several medications shouldn’t be taken with liraglutide. Talk to your doctor about the medicines you’re already on to ensure they’re allowed with this medication. Don’t take other weight loss drugs or supplements along with this medication. Avoid appetite suppressants and other diet products while you’re taking them.

How to Take It

If you are taking Victoza, you may be instructed to take your blood sugar often to keep yourself from getting blood sugar that’s too low. This should be done before meals, after them, and before bed. Your doctor will give you patient instructions, and following those instructions is essential. The doctor should show you how to inject the pen to administer the medication. It doesn’t matter if you take liraglutide with food or without.

The medication is taken by giving yourself a shot in the upper arm, thighs, or stomach and getting it under the skin. Rotating the areas that get the image is essential so that the same spot isn’t injected twice. Someone else can be shown how to inject you if you have trouble injecting yourself. If you take both Victoza and insulin, they can’t be mixed together and should not be injected right next to each other. If you’re on Saxenda, this shouldn’t be taken with insulin. Liraglutide can be injected at any time, but it’s a good idea to have a specific time of day when you always inject it.

Liraglutide must be refrigerated to keep it fresh and ready for use. Before injecting it, take a pen out of the fridge and let it come to room temperature. It’s also a good idea to look at the medication to ensure it has the proper look. If particles are floating in it, cloudy, or the color has changed, it’s best not to use it and contact your doctor about the problem.

Each time you inject liraglutide, use a brand-new needle. Never reuse them, and never share the pen with anyone else. When you take it, you will likely have a meal plan given to you by the doctor. Sticking to that plan to help you with your weight loss journey is essential.  Your doctor may change your dosage, so always take the new one you’re currently prescribed. Never take more than has been prescribed for you. Each pen should only be kept for 30 days or less. After it gets to be 30 days old, it’s time to throw it out and get new pens. Never freeze a pen. If one does get frozen, it has to be thrown away. A “sharps” box is available to throw your used needles into to prevent injuries. There may be local laws about getting rid of these containers once they’re full.

Could you store the medication in the carton that it comes in? However, the needle should be removed from the pen to keep it. The drug could leak out if needles are left attached to the cell while it’s been stored. Air bubbles could also form within the cell.

Possible Side Effects

There are a lot of side effects that can happen when you take this medication. Quite a few mild side effects are common, and these generally need no medical treatment. They may even go away after you’ve been taking the medication for a few days. These side effects include constipation, low blood sugar, a loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, rashes, headaches, diarrhea, stomach discomfort, dizziness, and fatigue. Nausea is incredibly commonly associated with this medication.

Several severe side effects can happen, and these may need medical attention. You could get a racing heartbeat, dehydration, suicidal thoughts, problems with your pancreas or gallbladder, high blood sugar, or very low blood sugar that comes with sweating and shakiness. Any of these side effects should be reported to your doctor. You may need to be taken off the medication, get a different dosage, or take another drug to handle your side effects. You may also need to have a prescription for a glucagon injection kit. This can end with seriously low blood sugar in case that should happen.

Some rare side effects that are unlikely to happen, but possible, include losing consciousness, confusion, anxiety, slurred speech, skin redness, depression, cold sweats, seizures, and nightmares.

Liraglutide can also cause allergic reactions in some patients. A mild allergy may lead to some itchy skin and a rash. More serious allergic reactions can include getting a rapid heartbeat, hives, dizziness, and more. It may cause you to have a hard time breathing or have swelling that’s in your throat or on your lips, face, or tongue.

Dosages

Many studies have been done on the correct dosages of liraglutide for various benefits. It’s been found that higher dosages of this medication result in more weight being lost. The dosage your doctor prescribes to you will depend on several factors, including your weight and age and what kind of co-morbidity you have along with your obesity. The doctor will also decide how many doses you must take and how long you should stay on the medication.

When it’s prescribed for diabetes, it is usually started at a dose of 0.6 mg and may be adjusted from there. When it’s named for lowering the risk of heart problems such as heart attacks, the exact dosage, 0.6 mg, is usually administered for at least the first week. After that, the dosage may be changed. It’s also traditionally started at 0.6 mg for the first week when prescribed for weight loss. After that, it may be raised every week until it’s at a dosage of 3 mg. This dosage is far more helpful with weight loss than the starting dose. If you miss a dose, you should skip it and return to your regular dosage the next day. If you miss three or more days of amounts, your doctor must be notified. They will be able to tell you how to restart the medication.

How Much Weight Can I Lose?

Multiple studies have been done on this medication and its effects on weight. It has been tested on more significant numbers of overweight patients with other related health problems such as diabetes or high blood pressure. The weight loss attributed to the medication alone was about 9 to over 13 pounds. Patients consistently lost about 5% of their body weight, with more than half losing that amount. About 25% to 33% of patients lost about 10% of their body weight. The weight loss is sustained as long as the patient takes the medication.

Taking liraglutide can be a great way to lose extra weight for some patients. Using a balanced diet in moderation and exercise can help patients lose more weight and get closer to their target weight.

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