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5 Things You Need To Know Before Taking Ozempic, According to a Pharmacist

The medication has been in the news lately, but you may not know all the facts.

Whenever you're prescribed a new medication, it's important to talk with your doctor and/or pharmacist about what to expect when you start taking it. A drug that's been in the news—as Ozempic has been of late—is no exception. Even if you've read about Ozempic, which has been buzzed about in large part thanks to celebrities taking it off-label to lose weight, you may not know all of the facts.

Best Life reached out to Deepti Pidakala, PharmD, to find out what people need to know before starting Ozempic. Read on to find out what she said, including who should not take Ozempic, and why.

READ THIS NEXT: 5 Common OTC Medications Pharmacists Wish You'd Stop Taking.

Ozempic is approved for use in patients with Type 2 diabetes.

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Ozempic was approved by the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) in 2017 for use in patients with Type 2 diabetes. "The main ingredient in Ozempic is called semaglutide, a man-made version of a natural hormone [called] GLP-1," Pidakala explains. "GLP-1, or glucagon-like peptide-1, helps your body keep blood sugar in balance."

She notes that Ozempic works in three of the body's organs to lower blood sugar: "It helps your pancreas produce more insulin when your blood sugar is high, helps prevent your liver from making and releasing too much sugar, and helps to slow down food from leaving your stomach."

READ THIS NEXT: People Are Saying Ozempic Is a Weight-Loss Miracle. Is It Worth the Brutal Side Effects?

Ozempic is given as an injection.

man with diabetes injecting Ozempic into his abdomen
myskin / Shutterstock

If you're not familiar with Ozempic, you might be surprised to learn that patients inject themselves with the drug, rather than taking it orally. "Ozempic comes as a pen injector that's similar to insulin pens," the experts at GoodRx write, noting that your healthcare provider or pharmacist can show you how to use the pen injector if you're unsure about it.

"Something patients don't always realize is that it's important to change your injection site with each injection," Pidakala tells Best Life. "Do not use the same site for each injection; if you choose to inject in the same area, always use a different spot."

Ozempic can lower your risk of heart attack and stroke.

old woman having heart attack and grabbing her chest

Pidakala says that for people with Type 2 diabetes and heart disease, taking Ozempic can lower the risk of a major cardiovascular event such as a heart attack or stroke.

She also notes that it's important for patients taking the drug to eat a healthy diet and exercise regularly in order to keep blood sugar in check and get the most benefit from the medication.

People taking Ozempic often experience these side effects.

Woman with nausea lying on the couch

"Common side effects of Ozempic include nausea, diarrhea, abdominal pain, vomiting, and constipation," Pidakala says, noting that these symptoms were reported by more than 5 percent of patients taking the medication.

She also lists several serious, though less common side effects, including thyroid tumors, cancer, inflammation of the pancreas, changes in vision, low blood sugar, kidney problems, serious allergic reactions, and gallbladder problems. "With any medicine, it's very important to talk to your healthcare provider about side effects," she warns. "Talk to yours about any side effect that bothers you or doesn't go away."

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Certain people should not take Ozempic.

female doctor touching the throat of a patient in the office

If you have a family history of thyroid cancer, it's vital that you disclose this to your doctor, says Pidakala. "Before taking Ozempic, all patients should know the risk of medullary thyroid cancers. Patients need to be counseled on this by their healthcare provider and continue monitoring for thyroid tumor symptoms. These include a mass in the neck, dysphagia, dyspnea, or persistent hoarseness," she explains. "Ozempic has a black box warning for an increased risk of developing thyroid c-cell tumors."

A black box warning is the FDA's most stringent classification for drugs and medical devices on the market, which Pidakala says should be seriously considered by each individual before starting this medication.

She also warns that anyone who wants to become pregnant should stop taking Ozempic well before trying to conceive. "It's recommended to discontinue Ozempic in women at least two months before a planned pregnancy, due to the long washout period require for this medication."

Best Life offers the most up-to-date information from top experts, new research, and health agencies, but our content is not meant to be a substitute for professional guidance. When it comes to the medication you're taking or any other health questions you have, always consult your healthcare provider directly.

Elizabeth Laura Nelson
Elizabeth Laura Nelson is the Deputy Health Editor at Best Life. A mom and a marathon runner, she’s passionate about all aspects of health and wellness. Read more
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