Liraglutide injection | Side Effects, Dosage, Uses & More
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Generic Name:

liraglutide, Injectable solution

All Brands

  • Victoza
SECTION 1 of 5

Highlights for liraglutide

Injectable solution
1

Liraglutide is an injectable drug that’s used to lower blood sugar levels in type 2 diabetes. It’s used along with diet and exercise.

2

Don’t use this drug in place of insulin. Liraglutide injection isn’t for people with type 1 diabetes or diabetic ketoacidosis.

3

Don’t use liraglutide injection if you have a personal or family history of thyroid cancer or an endocrine system condition called multiple endocrine neoplasia syndrome type 2.

4

Inject liraglutide under the skin (subcutaneously) in your stomach, thigh, or upper arm. Don’t inject liraglutide into a muscle or vein.

5

Common side effects include diarrhea, headache, nausea, constipation, and upset stomach.

IMPORTANT INFORMATION

FDA warning

This drug has a Black Box Warning. This is the most serious warning from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). A black box warning alerts doctors and patients to potentially dangerous effects.

Thyroid cancer warning: This drug may raise your risk of thyroid cancer.  You shouldn’t use this drug if you had medullary thyroid carcinoma (MTC) or have family history of this condition. It also shouldn’t be used if you have Multiple Endocrine Neoplasia syndrome type 2 (MEN 2). Tell your doctor right away if you have symptoms of thyroid cancer, such as:

  • a mass in your neck
  • trouble swallowing
  • trouble breathing or shortness of breath
  • hoarseness that doesn’t go away

Pancreas inflammation warning

This drug may cause inflammation of your pancreas (pancreatitis). If you have a history of pancreatitis, you may need to take another drug to treat your diabetes. Stop using this drug and tell your doctor if you have symptoms of pancreatitis, including:

  • serious stomach pain that may go through to your back
  • vomiting

Risk of low blood sugar

When used alone, this drug doesn’t often cause a low blood sugar reaction (hypoglycemia). Your risk may be higher if you’re also taking other diabetes drugs that can lower your blood sugar (sulfonylureas, glitinides, or insulin). Your doctor may lower your dose of these drugs while you take this drug. If you have low blood sugar, you’ll need to treat it. Symptoms of low blood sugar include:

  • feeling jittery
  • headache
  • dizziness
  • hunger
  • fast heart rate
  • confusion
  • irritability
  • sweating
  • drowsiness
  • weakness

Kidney problems warning

This drug may cause sudden changes in kidney function. Your risk may be higher if you take other medicines that affect your kidneys or if you’re dehydrated. If your kidneys don’t work well, your doctor should watch you closely when starting and increasing doses of this drug.

What is liraglutide?

This drug is a prescription drug. It’s available as an injectable solution. This drug is self-injectable. 

This drug is only available as the brand-name drug Victoza. It isn’t available as a generic drug

Why it's used

This drug is used to control blood sugar levels in adults in type 2 diabetes. It’s used along with diet and exercise.

How it works

This drug belongs to a class of drugs called glucagon-like peptide-1 receptor agonists (GLP-1 receptor agonists) or incretin mimetics.

More Details

How it works

This drug belongs to a class of drugs called glucagon-like peptide-1 receptor agonists (GLP-1 receptor agonists) or incretin mimetics. A class of drugs refers to medications that work similarly. They have a similar chemical structure and are often used to treat similar conditions. 

Normally after you eat, incretin hormones are released from the small intestine into your blood. They cause insulin to be released by your pancreas into your blood. Insulin helps your body move sugar from the bloodstream to your cells, where it belongs. In type 2 diabetes, your body doesn’t make enough insulin or it can’t use the insulin it makes.

This drug increases the production and release of insulin from your pancreas, decreases high glucagon secretions (high glucagon stops insulin release), and slows the emptying of your stomach. All of these actions help to lower your blood sugar levels.

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SECTION 2 of 5

liraglutide Side Effects

Injectable solution

More Common Side Effects

The more common side effects that occur with liraglutide injection include:

  • diarrhea

  • headache

  • nausea

  • constipation

  • upset stomach

If these effects are mild, they may go away within a few days or a couple of weeks. If they’re more severe or don’t go away, talk to your doctor or pharmacist.

Serious Side Effects

If you experience any of these serious side effects, call your doctor right away. If your symptoms are potentially life threatening, or if you think you’re experiencing a medical emergency, call 9-1-1

  • allergic reactions. Symptoms may include:

    • skin rash
    • itching
    • hives
    • swelling of your face, lips, or tongue
    • breathing problems
  • antibodies to liraglutide injection. Your body may develop antibodies to liraglutide injection. This means that it may stop working to control your blood sugar. Symptoms may include:

    • high blood sugar levels
  • low blood sugar (hypoglycemia). Symptoms may include:

    • anxiety
    • confusion
    • dizziness
    • increased hunger
    • unusual weakness or tiredness
    • sweating
    • shakiness
    • feeling cold
    • irritability
    • headache
    • blurred vision
    • fast heart rate
    • loss of consciousness 

    If you don’t treat low blood sugar, you can have a seizure, pass out, and possibly develop brain damage. Low blood sugar can even be fatal. If you pass out because of a low sugar reaction or cannot swallow, someone will have to give an injection of glucagon to treat the low sugar reaction. You may need to go to the emergency room.

  • sudden swelling of your pancreas (pancreatitis). Symptoms may include:

    • stomach pain that may go through to your back
    • nausea
    • vomiting
  • thyroid cancer. Symptoms may include:

    • lump in your neck
    • trouble swallowing
    • trouble breathing
    • hoarseness that won’t go away
  • kidney problems. Symptoms may include:

    • trouble passing urine or changes in the amount of urine
    • nausea
    • feeling confused or tired
    • swelling in your legs, ankles, or feet
Pharmacist's Advice
Healthline Pharmacist Editorial Team

This drug doesn’t cause drowsiness.

If you have a low blood sugar reaction, you need to treat it.

  • For mild hypoglycemia (55–70 mg/dL), treatment is 15–20 grams of glucose (a type of sugar). You need to eat or drink one of the following:
    • 3–4 glucose tablets
    • a tube of glucose gel
    • ½ cup of juice or regular, non-diet soda
    • 1 cup of nonfat or 1% cow’s milk
    • 1 tablespoon of sugar, honey, or corn syrup
    • 8–10 pieces of hard candy, such as lifesavers
  • Test your blood sugar 15 minutes after you treat the low sugar reaction. If your blood sugar is still low, then repeat the above treatment.

Once your blood sugar level is back in the normal range, eat a small snack if your next planned meal or snack is more than 1 hour later.

Disclaimer: Our goal is to provide you with the most relevant and current information. However, because drugs affect each person differently, we cannot guarantee that this information includes all possible side effects. This information is not a substitute for medical advice. Always discuss possible side effects with a healthcare provider who knows your medical history.
SECTION 3 of 5

liraglutide May Interact with Other Medications

Injectable solution

Liraglutide injection can interact with other medications, herbs, or vitamins you might be taking. That’s why your doctor should manage all of your medications carefully. If you’re curious about how this drug might interact with something else you’re taking, talk to your doctor or pharmacist. 

Note: You can reduce your chances of drug interactions by having all of your prescriptions filled at the same pharmacy. That way, a pharmacist can check for possible drug interactions.

Alcohol interaction

You should limit how much alcohol you drink while taking this drug.

Alcohol may cause a low blood sugar reaction for up to 24 hours after you drink it. If you drink alcohol, watch your blood sugar closely and don’t drink it on an empty stomach.

Disclaimer: Our goal is to provide you with the most relevant and current information. However, because drugs interact differently in each person, we cannot guarantee that this information includes all possible interactions. This information is not a substitute for medical advice. Always speak with your healthcare provider about possible interactions with all prescription drugs, vitamins, herbs and supplements, and over-the-counter drugs that you are taking.
Drug warnings
thyroid cancer
People with thyroid cancer

Don’t use this drug if you’ve had or have a family history of a type of thyroid cancer called medullary thyroid carcinoma (MTC), or if you have an endocrine system condition called Multiple Endocrine Neoplasia syndrome type 2 (MEN 2). You may be more likely to develop thyroid tumors if you take this drug.

swelling of pancreas
People with swelling of the pancreas

This drug can cause pancreatitis. If you already have pancreatitis, it may make your condition worse. You may need a different drug to treat your diabetes. If you’ve had pancreatitis in the past, you may be more likely to have this side effect.

kidney disease
People with kidney disease

This drug may worsen your kidney function and lead to kidney failure. If your kidneys don’t work well, your doctor should watch you closely when starting and increasing doses of this drug.

slow stomach emptying
People with slowed stomach emptying

This drug causes stomach and intestinal side effects and can slow emptying of your stomach. Don’t take this drug if you have slowed stomach emptying (gastroparesis), because it can make your condition worse.

pregnant women
Pregnant women

This drug is a category C pregnancy drug. That means two things:

  1. Research in animals has shown adverse effects to the fetus when the mother takes the drug.
  2. There haven’t been enough studies done in humans to be certain how the drug might affect the fetus.

Tell your doctor if you’re pregnant or plan to become pregnant. This drug should be used during pregnancy only if the potential benefit justifies the potential risk to the fetus.

breastfeeding
Women who are breast-feeding

It isn’t known if this drug passes through breast milk. If it does, it may cause serious effects in a breastfeeding child.

You and your doctor may need to decide if you’ll take this drug or breastfeed.

for seniors
For seniors

As you age, your kidneys may not work as well as they once did. This drug may make your kidney function worse.

for children
For children

The safety and effectiveness of this drug haven’t been established in people younger than 18 years old.

contact with drug
Contact with drug

This drug shouldn’t be shared with anyone, even if they have the same medical condition as you and even if the needle on the pen is changed. This may spread infection.

call doctor
When to call the doctor
  • Call your doctor if you’re starting or stopping medicines. Your doctor or pharmacist will make sure that this drug and the other medicines work well and safely together.
  • Call your doctor if your blood sugar control is getting worse even though you’re taking this drug regularly. You may have developed antibodies to this drug that make it no longer work. You’ll need a different medicine to treat your diabetes.
 
allergies
Allergies

This drug may cause a severe allergic reaction. Symptoms may include:

  • skin rash
  • itching
  • hives
  • swelling of your face, lips, or tongue 

Don’t take this drug again if you’ve ever had an allergic reaction to it. You also shouldn’t take it if you’ve had an allergic reaction to Byetta or other drugs in this class. Taking it again could be fatal.

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How to Take liraglutide (Dosage)

Injectable solution

All possible dosages and forms may not be included here. Your dose, form, and how often you take it will depend on:

  • your age
  • the condition being treated
  • how severe your condition is
  • other medical conditions you have
  • how you react to the first dose

What are you taking this medication for?

Type 2 diabetes

Brand: Victoza

Form: Injectable solution
Strengths: 6 mg/mL in a 3 mL prefilled pen device
Adult dosage (ages 18 years and older)
  • Inject 0.6 mg per day for one week. This dose will allow your body to get used to the medicine and decrease your risk of side effects. It won’t work well to decrease your blood sugar. After one week, your doctor will increase your dose to 1.2 mg per day. If that dose doesn’t control your blood sugar, your doctor may increase your dose to 1.8 mg per day.
  • Inject this drug once per day at any time of the day, regardless of meals.
Child dosage (ages 0–17 years)

This medicine hasn’t been studied in children and shouldn’t be used in younger than 18 years old.

Warnings

If you’re also injecting insulin, make sure to inject them separately. Never mix them. Use a different site, even if you use the same body part for the injection.

Disclaimer: Our goal is to provide you with the most relevant and current information. However, because drugs affect each person differently, we cannot guarantee that this list includes all possible dosages. This information is not a substitute for medical advice. Always to speak with your doctor or pharmacist about dosages that are right for you.
Pharmacist's Advice
Healthline Pharmacist Editorial Team

This drug comes with serious risks if you don’t take it as prescribed.

If you don’t take it at all or skip or miss doses

You may still experience high blood sugar levels. Over time, high blood sugar levels can harm your eyes, kidneys, nerves, or heart. This can lead to heart attack, stroke, blindness, kidney failure and dialysis, and limb amputations.

If you take too much

If you take too much, you may have the following symptoms:

  • severe nausea
  • severe vomiting 
  • low blood sugar

If you think that you’ve taken too much of this drug, call a poison control center or go to the emergency room at once.

What to do if you miss a dose

If you miss a dose, skip that dose and just take your next dose the following day. Don’t take double or extra doses.

If you miss your dose for more than 3 days, you may need to go back down to the 0.6 mg dose to decrease your chance of side effects. Your doctor will tell you how to increase the dose after the first week.

How to tell if the drug is working

You may be able to tell if this drug is working if your blood sugar level is lower.

This drug is used for long-term treatment.

This drug must be stored at the right temperature

Before use:

Store new, unused pens in the refrigerator. Keep from 36–46°F (2–8°C) until the expiration date on the package.

Don’t freeze this drug or use it if it’s been frozen. Don’t store this drug near the refrigerator cooling element.

If this drug is stored outside of the refrigerator before its first use, use it within 30 days. After 30 days, throw it away even if there is some medicine left in the pen.

Pen in use:

Keep the pen cap on when you’re not using the pen.

Store your pen at room temperature from 59–86°F (15–30°C), or in the refrigerator from 36–46°F (2–8°C) for up to 30 days.

Throw the pen away if it’s been exposed to temperatures above 86°F (30°C).

Use a pen for only 30 days. Throw away the used pen after 30 days, even if there’s some medicine left in the pen.

Protect the pen from excessive heat and sunlight.

Make sure to remove the needle after each use. Store the pen without the needle attached.

A prescription for this medication is refillable

You should not need a new prescription for this medication to be refilled. Your doctor will write the number of refills authorized on your prescription.

Travel

When traveling with your medication:

  • Always carry your medication with you or in your carry-on bag.
  • Don’t worry about airport X-ray machines. They can’t hurt your medication.
  • You may need to show your pharmacy’s label to clearly identify the medication. Keep the original prescription label with you when traveling.
  • This medication needs to be refrigerated. You may need to use an insulated bag with a cold pack to keep the temperature when traveling. Follow the storage instructions mentioned on the medication when traveling.
  • Don’t leave this medicine in the car, especially when the temperature is hot or freezing.
  • Needles need to be used to take this medicine. Check for special rules about traveling with needles.

Self-management

You’ll need to learn how to do the following:

  • how to use and care for your pen.
  • use a blood glucose monitor to test your blood sugar regularly at home
  • recognize the signs and symptoms of high and low blood sugar
  • be able to treat low and high blood sugar reactions 

While taking this drug, you’ll need to regularly test your blood sugar levels at home. You’ll need to purchase the following:

  • sterile alcohol wipes
  • lancing device and lancets (a pricking needle used to prick your finger to draw a drop of blood for testing blood sugar)
  • blood sugar test strips
  • blood glucose monitoring machine
  • needle container for safe disposal of lancets

Clinical monitoring

Before starting and while taking this drug, your doctor may check your:

  • blood sugar levels
  • glycosylated hemoglobin (A1C) levels. This test measures your blood sugar control over the last 2–3 months.
  • weight
  • kidney function
  • liver function 

Your doctor may do other tests to check for complications of diabetes:

  • eye exam at least once a year
  • foot exam at least once a year
  • dental exam at least once a year
  • tests for nerve damage
  • cholesterol levels
  • blood pressure and heart rate

Hidden costs

In addition to the medicine, you will need to purchase the following:

  • sterile alcohol wipes
  • lancing device and lancets (a pricking needle used to prick your finger to draw a drop of blood for testing blood sugar)
  • blood sugar test strips
  • blood glucose monitoring machine
  • needle container for safe disposal of lancets

Insurance

Many insurance companies will require a prior authorization before they approve the prescription and pay for this drug.

Are there any alternatives?

There are other drugs available to treat your condition. Some may be more suitable for you than others. Talk to your doctor about possible alternatives.

SECTION 5 of 5

How Much Does liraglutide Cost?

Injectable solution

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Content developed in collaboration with University of Illinois-Chicago, Drug Information Group

Medically reviewed by Creighton University, Center for Drug Information and Evidence-Based Practice on July 29, 2015

Disclaimer: Healthline has made every effort to make certain that all information is factually correct, comprehensive, and up-to-date. However, this article should not be used as a substitute for the knowledge and expertise of a licensed healthcare professional. You should always consult your doctor or other healthcare professional before taking any medication. The drug information contained herein is subject to change and is not intended to cover all possible uses, directions, precautions, warnings, drug interactions, allergic reactions, or adverse effects. The absence of warnings or other information for a given drug does not indicate that the drug or drug combination is safe, effective, or appropriate for all patients or all specific uses.
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