Side Effects of Victoza: What You Need to Know


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Introduction

If you have type 2 diabetes, your doctor might suggest Victoza (liraglutide) as a treatment option for you. Before you begin using Victoza, you may want to know about its possible side effects.

Victoza is a prescription medication that’s used to:

  • treat type 2 diabetes, along with diet and exercise, in adults and certain children
  • reduce the risk for serious cardiovascular problems (problems related to the heart and blood vessels) in adults who have type 2 diabetes and heart disease

Victoza is a solution that you’ll inject under your skin using a prefilled pen once daily. It’s not insulin, like some other injectable diabetes medications. But like insulin, this drug decreases your blood sugar and hemoglobin A1c (the amount of hemoglobin that has sugar attached, which is another indicator of blood sugar levels).

If you have both type 2 diabetes and heart disease, Victoza may also reduce your risk for serious cardiovascular problems. Examples include heart attack and stroke.

If Victoza works for you, your doctor will likely recommend that you use it long term.

For more information about Victoza, see this in-depth article.

Like other drugs, some people may have mild or serious side effects from using the Victoza pen. Keep reading to learn more.

What are the more common side effects of Victoza?

Some people may have mild or serious side effects during their Victoza treatment. Examples of Victoza’s commonly reported side effects include:

  • nausea*
  • diarrhea
  • vomiting
  • decrease in appetite
  • indigestion (upset stomach)

* To learn more about this side effect, see “Side effects explained” below.

For more information about the mild or serious side effects that you may have from receiving Victoza, see the sections below.

What are the mild side effects of Victoza?

You may have mild side effects from using Victoza. Examples of mild side effects that have been reported with Victoza include:

  • nausea*
  • diarrhea
  • constipation
  • vomiting
  • low blood sugar*
  • decrease in appetite
  • indigestion (upset stomach)
  • headache*
  • injection site reactions*

* To learn more about this side effect, see “Side effects explained” below.

In most cases, these side effects should be temporary. And some may be easily managed, too. But if you have any symptoms that are ongoing or that bother you, talk with your doctor or pharmacist. And do not stop using Victoza unless your doctor recommends it.

Victoza may cause mild side effects other than those listed above. See the Victoza medication guide for more information.

Note: After the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approves a drug, it tracks and reviews side effects of the medication. If you’d like to notify the FDA about a side effect you’ve had with Victoza, visit MedWatch.

What are the serious side effects of Victoza?

Although rare, serious side effects may occur from using Victoza. Serious side effects that have been reported with Victoza include:

  • risk of thyroid tumor*†
  • pancreatitis (swelling of your pancreas)
  • allergic reaction†‡
  • kidney problems
  • gallbladder problems
  • severe low blood sugar*

* Victoza has a boxed warning for this side effect. This is the most serious warning from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). To learn more, see the “Side effects explained” section below.
† To learn more about this side effect, see “Side effects explained” below.
‡ An allergic reaction is possible after using Victoza. Although not reported in studies, this side effect has occurred in people using Victoza. But it’s unclear how often it happened or if Victoza was the cause.

If you develop serious side effects while using Victoza, call your doctor right away. If the side effects seem life threatening or if you think you’re having a medical emergency, immediately call 911 or your local emergency number.

FAQs about Victoza’s side effects

Get answers to some frequently asked questions about Victoza’s side effects.

Does Victoza cause weight loss?

It’s possible that Victoza may cause some weight loss. However, it isn’t approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for this purpose. Victoza is used to treat type 2 diabetes. It’s also used to decrease the risk of cardiovascular problems (which are related to the heart and blood vessels) in people with both type 2 diabetes and heart disease.

Weight loss wasn’t reported as a side effect in studies of people receiving the medication. However, Victoza did cause decreased appetite, which may lead to a small amount of weight loss.

Victoza contains the active drug ingredient liraglutide. Although Victoza isn’t approved for weight loss, another medication, Saxenda, is. Saxenda also contains the active drug ingredient liraglutide.

Victoza and Saxenda are not interchangeable. They’re given in different doses and have different approved uses. (To learn more about how Saxenda compares with Victoza, see this article.)

If you’re interested in a medication for weight management, talk with your doctor. Victoza likely isn’t the best option for you. But other treatments that are approved for weight management, such as Saxenda, may be better options.

Will I experience hair loss during my Victoza treatment?

It’s unlikely. Hair loss wasn’t reported as a side effect in studies of people using Victoza.

But it’s possible that diabetes itself may cause hair loss. If you have hair loss during your diabetes treatment, talk with your doctor. They may be able to recommend ways to decrease your hair loss.

Is fatigue a side effect of Victoza?

No, fatigue (lack of energy) isn’t a side effect that was reported in people using Victoza. However, it’s a common symptom of diabetes.

It’s also possible for you to have fatigue from other side effects of Victoza. For example, low blood sugar is such a side effect. You’re especially at risk for this side effect if you’re also using other diabetes medications. Low blood sugar can cause you to feel tired.

Fatigue may also be a sign of kidney problems, which may occur rarely in people using Victoza.

If you’re feeling more tired than usual during Victoza treatment, talk with your doctor. They may recommend blood tests to check your blood sugar level and your kidney function. They may also be able to recommend ways to increase your energy level.

How long do side effects from Victoza last?

It depends. You may have more common side effects when you first start using Victoza or your dose increases. Examples of common side effects include nausea and vomiting. These side effects may go away within a few weeks after you begin treatment or have your dose increased.

But other side effects, such as injection site reactions, may occur each time you inject Victoza.

If you have side effects that don’t go away within a few weeks, talk with your doctor. They may be able to recommend ways to decrease your side effects.

Does Victoza cause joint pain?

No, joint pain wasn’t a side effect reported in studies of people receiving Victoza. But other medications used to treat diabetes may cause joint pain. Examples of these drugs include Januvia (sitagliptin) and Onglyza (saxagliptin).

If you have joint pain during your treatment with Victoza, talk with your doctor. They can recommend ways to decrease this side effect.

Side effects explained

Learn more about some of the side effects Victoza may cause.

Risk of thyroid tumors

Victoza has a boxed warning for the risk of thyroid cancer. This is the most serious warning from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). A boxed warning lets doctors and patients know about possible serious risks from taking a medication.

Victoza has been shown in animal studies to increase the risk of certain thyroid cancers, such as medullary thyroid cancer. This rare side effect didn’t occur in studies of people receiving Victoza. However, there have been reports of this side effect in people using this medication. At this time, it’s unclear how often people using Victoza developed thyroid tumors or if Victoza was the cause.

You should be aware of the symptoms of thyroid cancer. This way, if you develop these symptoms, you can tell your doctor right away. Symptoms may include:

  • a mass or lump in your neck
  • trouble swallowing
  • trouble breathing
  • hoarse voice

What might help

If you have had medullary thyroid cancer or multiple endocrine neoplasia syndrome type 2 (a rare genetic disorder associated with thyroid cancer), you should not use Victoza. If you have a family history of medullary thyroid cancer, you also should not use Victoza.

Throughout your treatment with Victoza, your doctor may monitor your blood for any changes in thyroid hormone level. They may also do an ultrasound of your thyroid to look for changes to the gland.

You may want to keep track of any symptoms you have during your treatment with Victoza. If you develop any symptoms of a thyroid tumor, tell your doctor right away. They will likely do some tests to see what’s causing your symptoms. They may also recommend that you stop treatment with Victoza.

Headache

You may have headaches while you’re using Victoza. Headaches are one of the most common side effects reported in studies of Victoza.

What might help

If you have headaches while you’re using Victoza, talk with your doctor. They will be able to recommend ways to decrease your headaches. For example, they may suggest taking over-the-counter pain relievers, such as acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin).

Injection site reactions

Injection site reactions were a rare side effect that was reported in studies of people using Victoza. Since Victoza is an injectable medication, you may develop side effects around the area where you inject the drug. Examples of injection site reactions include redness, deepening of skin color, or rash at the area of injection.

What might help

If you develop injection site reactions that are bothersome to you, talk with your doctor or pharmacist. To decrease the risk of this side effect, they may recommend changing where you inject the drug or the way you’re injecting it.

Low blood sugar

You may develop low blood sugar during Victoza treatment. Your risk for low blood sugar could be even higher if you take other diabetes medications that also decrease your blood sugar. An example is insulin.

In studies, most people who had low blood sugar were using Victoza with either insulin or sulfonylurea drugs. Examples of sulfonylurea drugs include Glucotrol (glipizide) and DiaBeta (glyburide).

The risk of low blood sugar was higher in children using Victoza. This risk was higher even for children who weren’t also taking other medications that may cause low blood sugar.

Low blood sugar can be severe or even life threatening if not treated. So knowing the symptoms of this side effect may help you to treat it as soon as possible. Symptoms of low blood sugar include:

  • sweating
  • increased heart rate
  • feeling dizzy or lightheaded
  • blurry vision
  • headache
  • confusion or drowsiness

What might help

Watch for symptoms of low blood sugar during Victoza treatment. If you have low blood sugar, treat it right away.

You can treat low blood sugar by taking food or drinks with sugar in them. These could include glucose tablets, juice or soda (but not diet soda), sugar or honey, or hard candy. The American Diabetes Association recommends having 15 grams of carbohydrates every 15 minutes until your glucose level reaches 70 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL).

If you’re experiencing low blood sugar, be sure to tell your doctor. They may recommend decreasing your dose of other diabetes medications you might be taking.

Nausea

You may have nausea when using Victoza. In studies of this drug, nausea was the most common side effect.

You should tell your doctor if you’re experiencing nausea when you’re using Victoza. Although very rare, it’s possible that nausea may be a symptom of a more serious side effect of Victoza. This includes pancreatitis, gallbladder problems, and kidney problems.

What might help

If you have nausea during Victoza treatment, talk with your doctor. They may do some tests to be sure that the nausea isn’t related to other problems. Your doctor will suggest treatments or recommend ways to decrease your nausea.

Allergic reaction

Like most drugs, Victoza can cause an allergic reaction in some people. Allergic reaction wasn’t a side effect seen during studies of Victoza. However, there have been reports of allergic reaction in people using Victoza. But it’s unclear how often this side effect happened or if Victoza was the cause.

Symptoms can be mild or serious and may include:

  • skin rash
  • itchiness
  • flushing (temporary warmth, redness, or deepening of skin color for a brief time)
  • swelling under your skin, typically in your eyelids, lips, hands, or feet
  • swelling of your mouth, tongue, or throat, which can make it hard to breathe

What might help

If you have mild symptoms of an allergic reaction, such as a mild rash, call your doctor right away. They may suggest an over-the-counter oral antihistamine, such as Benadryl (diphenhydramine), or a topical product, such as hydrocortisone cream, to manage your symptoms.

If your doctor confirms you had a mild allergic reaction to Victoza, they’ll decide if you should continue using it.

If you have symptoms of a severe allergic reaction, such as swelling or trouble breathing, call 911 or your local emergency number right away. These symptoms could be life threatening and require immediate medical care.

If your doctor confirms you had a serious allergic reaction to Victoza, they may have you switch to a different treatment.

Keeping track of side effects

During your Victoza treatment, consider keeping notes on any side effects you’re having. Then, you can share this information with your doctor. This is especially helpful to do when you first start taking new drugs or using a combination of treatments.

Your side effect notes can include things like:

  • what dose of Victoza you were receiving when you had the side effect
  • how soon after starting that dose you had the side effect
  • what your symptoms were from the side effect
  • how it affected your daily activities
  • what other medications you were also taking
  • any other information you feel is important

Keeping notes and sharing them with your doctor will help your doctor learn more about how Victoza affects you. And your doctor can use this information to adjust your treatment plan if needed.

Side effects in children

Victoza is used to treat type 2 diabetes in children ages 10 years and older. In studies of Victoza, children had the same side effects as adults. But children had an increased risk for low blood sugar.

For adults receiving Victoza, this side effect mostly affected those taking multiple medications for their diabetes. Children receiving the drug had a risk for low blood sugar even if they weren’t taking other diabetes medications.

Because of this risk in children, it’s important to know the symptoms of low blood sugar and how to treat it. For more information on this side effect, see the “Side effects explained” section above.

Warnings for Victoza

Victoza has several warnings that may affect whether you can safely use this drug.

Boxed warning: Risk of thyroid cancer

Victoza has a boxed warning for the risk of thyroid cancer. This is the most serious warning from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

It is possible that Victoza may increase your risk for certain thyroid cancers, such as medullary thyroid cancer. You should not use Victoza if you or someone in your family has had medullary thyroid cancer. You should also not use Victoza if you have multiple endocrine neoplasia type 2, a rare genetic disorder associated with thyroid cancer.

To learn more, see the “Side effects explained” section above.

Other warnings

Victoza may not be right for you if you have certain medical conditions or other factors that affect your health. Talk with your doctor about your health history before you start Victoza treatment. Factors to consider include those in the list below.

Kidney problems. Victoza may increase your risk for kidney problems, which may be serious. If you have had kidney problems in the past, tell your doctor before you start using Victoza. They may monitor your kidney function more often during your treatment.

Allergic reaction. If you’ve had an allergic reaction to Victoza or any of its ingredients, you should not use Victoza. Ask your doctor about other medications that might be better options for you.

Liver problems. Before you start using Victoza, tell your doctor if you have any liver problems, such as hepatitis. Increased liver enzymes, which may be a sign of liver damage, have been reported in people using Victoza. If you have or have had liver problems, your doctor may recommend more frequent monitoring or blood tests during Victoza treatment.

Pancreas problems. If you have problems with your pancreas or have had pancreatitis, tell your doctor. Victoza may increase your risk for pancreatitis. Your doctor may monitor you more often if you have any pancreas problems.

Slowed stomach emptying. Before you start using Victoza, tell your doctor if you have had any stomach emptying disorders, such as gastroparesis. Victoza may cause your stomach to empty slower than usual. If you already have slowed stomach emptying, this can make your condition worse. In this case, your doctor may recommend a different treatment option for you.

Alcohol use and Victoza

Alcohol can increase your risk for low blood sugar. Your liver usually helps to manage your blood sugar. But when you drink alcohol, this organ works to get rid of the alcohol in your blood. As a result, your blood sugar may become too low, which can be very dangerous.

Mixed drinks and frozen cocktails may have a lot of sugar in them, which can affect your diabetes.

Discuss with your doctor how much alcohol is safe for you to drink. This will likely depend on how well your diabetes is managed.

Pregnancy and breastfeeding while using Victoza

Pregnancy. It’s not known if Victoza is safe to use during pregnancy. In animal studies, Victoza showed that it may cause harm to a developing fetus. However, animal studies don’t always predict what will happen in humans.

If you’re pregnant or planning to become pregnant, talk with your doctor about whether Victoza is a good treatment option for you.

Breastfeeding. There have been no studies on using Victoza while breastfeeding. So it is not known if the drug may be present in breast milk or have an effect on a breastfeeding child.

If you’re breastfeeding or planning to breastfeed, talk with your doctor about whether Victoza is right for you.

What to ask your doctor

Side effects can occur while taking Victoza. These tend to be mild, though in rare cases Victoza can cause serious side effects.

Talk with your doctor or pharmacist if you have questions about Victoza’s side effects. Here are a few questions you may want to ask:

  • Do you have tips for dealing with nausea caused by Victoza?
  • If I become pregnant during my treatment with Victoza, what can happen?
  • Do my other medical conditions put me at an increased risk for other side effects?
  • If I have these side effects, how can I best treat them?

For tips on healthy eating, managing your condition, and more, subscribe to our online newsletter for type 2 diabetes.

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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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