How does this medication work? What will it do for me?
Liraglutide belongs to the class of medications called human glucagon-like peptides. It is used for chronic (long-term) management of body weight, together with reduced caloric intake and increased physical activity. It may be prescribed for people with a body mass index (BMI) of 30 kg/m² or more, or people with a BMI of 27 kg/m² who also have another weight-related illness, such as high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, or dyslipidemia (high cholesterol).
It is also used with decreased caloric intake and increased physical activity for long-term body weight management for adolescents between 12 and 18 years of age who have obesity, as diagnosed by a doctor. Liraglutide helps with weight control by affecting sensations of hunger, causing a decrease in appetite and food intake. It slows down the passage of food from the stomach into the intestine, causing the person to "feel full" for longer after a meal. It also decreases the maximum glucose level in the blood and the amount of insulin needed for the body to use the glucose.
This medication may be available under multiple brand names and/or in several different forms. Any specific brand name of this medication may not be available in all of the forms or approved for all of the conditions discussed here. As well, some forms of this medication may not be used for all of the conditions discussed here.
Your doctor may have suggested this medication for conditions other than those listed in these drug information articles. If you have not discussed this with your doctor or are not sure why you are taking this medication, speak to your doctor. Do not stop taking this medication without consulting your doctor.
Do not give this medication to anyone else, even if they have the same symptoms as you do. It can be harmful for people to take this medication if their doctor has not prescribed it.
What form(s) does this medication come in?
Each mL of clear, colourless solution contains 6 mg of liraglutide. Nonmedicinal ingredients: disodium phosphate dihydrate, propylene glycol, phenol, and water for injection.
How should I use this medication?
The recommended starting dose of liraglutide is 0.6 mg daily injected subcutaneously (under the skin) on your stomach area (abdomen), upper thigh, or upper arm, exactly as instructed by your doctor. It can be injected at any time of the day, without regard to meals. After one week, your doctor will increase the dose to 1.2 mg once daily, gradually increasing the dose to the recommended 3 mg daily. This gradual increase of the dose should minimize side effects on the digestive system. Adolescents should follow the same gradual increase in dose. If 3 mg daily produces unacceptable side effects, the dose may be reduced to 2.4 mg daily.
Your doctor or nurse will assist you in the preparation and injection of your first dose (or first few doses) and can teach you how to give yourself the injection at home. Do not attempt to inject this medication on your own until you completely understand how to inject a dose. If you are unsure of how to prepare or administer a dose, ask a health care professional to clarify for you. If you are having difficulty giving yourself injections, ask a family member or other caregiver for help if they are willing to become involved with your treatment and are willing to learn how to give you your injections.
Use a different injection site for each dose. Avoid injecting this medication into an area of skin that is sore, red, infected, or otherwise damaged.
Liraglutide should be clear and colourless. Do not use liraglutide if you notice particles or anything unusual in the appearance of the solution.
Many things can affect the dose of medication that a person needs, such as body weight, other medical conditions, and other medications. If your doctor has recommended a dose different from the ones listed here, do not change the way that you are taking the medication without consulting your doctor.
It is important to take this medication exactly as prescribed by your doctor. If you miss a dose, skip the missed dose and continue with your regular dosing schedule. If you miss more than 3 doses in a row, contact your doctor or pharmacist for instructions. Do not take a double dose to make up for a missed one. If you are not sure what to do after missing a dose, contact your doctor or pharmacist for advice.
Store this medication in the refrigerator, do not allow it to freeze, and keep it out of the reach of children. After the first use of the pen, this medication can be stored at room temperature or in the refrigerator for up to 30 days. To protect this medication from light, always keep the pen cap on when you are not using it. Always store this medication without a needle attached to prevent contamination, infection, and leakage.
Do not dispose of medications in wastewater (e.g. down the sink or in the toilet) or in household garbage. Ask your pharmacist how to dispose of medications that are no longer needed or have expired.
Who should NOT take this medication?
Do not take this medication if you:
- are allergic to liraglutide or any ingredients of the medication
- are pregnant
- are breast-feeding
- have a personal or family history of thyroid cancer
- have multiple endocrine neoplasia syndrome type 2 (a disease where people have tumours in more than one gland in their body)
What side effects are possible with this medication?
Many medications can cause side effects. A side effect is an unwanted response to a medication when it is taken in normal doses. Side effects can be mild or severe, temporary or permanent.
The side effects listed below are not experienced by everyone who takes this medication. If you are concerned about side effects, discuss the risks and benefits of this medication with your doctor.
The following side effects have been reported by at least 1% of people taking this medication. Many of these side effects can be managed, and some may go away on their own over time.
Contact your doctor if you experience these side effects and they are severe or bothersome. Your pharmacist may be able to advise you on managing side effects.
- bloated feeling
- changed sense of taste
- decreased appetite
- dry mouth
- general feeling of being unwell
- mild abdominal pain or swelling
- redness, itching, or swelling at the site of injection
- trouble sleeping
Although most of the side effects listed below don't happen very often, they could lead to serious problems if you do not seek medical attention.
Check with your doctor as soon as possible if any of the following side effects occur:
- heart rhythm changes (e.g., dizziness, palpitations, increased heart rate, fainting)
- signs of dehydration (e.g., decreased urine, dry skin, dry and sticky mouth, sleepiness, dizziness, headache, thirst, confusion)
- signs of kidney problems (e.g., increased urination at night, decreased urine production, blood in the urine)
- signs of low blood glucose (e.g., anxiety, blurred vision, confusion, difficulty concentrating, difficulty speaking, dizziness, drowsiness, fast heartbeat, feeling jittery, headache, hunger, irritability, nausea, nervousness, numbness or tingling of the lips or tongue, sweating, tiredness, trembling, weakness)
- symptoms of inflamed gall bladder (e.g., nausea or vomiting, pain in the mid to upper right section of the abdomen, fever or chills, long term diarrhea, unusual stools or urine)
- symptoms of gallstones (e.g., abdominal pain, pain between shoulders, nausea, vomiting)
Stop taking the medication and seek immediate medical attention if any of the following occur:
- severe hypoglycemia (e.g., disorientation, loss of consciousness, seizures)
- signs of pancreatitis (e.g., abdominal pain on the upper left side, back pain, nausea, fever, chills, rapid heartbeat, swollen abdomen)
- symptoms of a serious allergic reaction (e.g., swelling of the face or throat, difficulty breathing, wheezing, or itchy skin rash)
Some people may experience side effects other than those listed. Check with your doctor if you notice any symptom that worries you while you are taking this medication.
Are there any other precautions or warnings for this medication?
Before you begin using a medication, be sure to inform your doctor of any medical conditions or allergies you may have, any medications you are taking, whether you are pregnant or breast-feeding, and any other significant facts about your health. These factors may affect how you should use this medication.
Breast cancer: There may be an increased risk of developing breast cancer when using liraglutide. Talk to your doctor if you have any concerns.
Gallstones: Liraglutide has been associated with an increase in gallstone formation. Gallstones often form when there is significant or fast weight loss. If you experience symptoms of gallstones, such as nausea and vomiting, pain under the right shoulder or between the shoulder blades or severe abdominal pain, contact your doctor as soon as possible.
Heart problems: This medication may increase heart rate and may affect how electrical impulses travel through the heart muscle. If you have heart disease (e.g., recent heart attack, angina, heart failure) or an abnormal heart rhythm (e.g., heart block or fast heart rate), discuss with your doctor how this medication may affect your medical condition, how your medical condition may affect the dosing and effectiveness of this medication, and whether any special monitoring is needed.
Intestinal problems: The safety and effectiveness of using this medication for people with inflammatory bowel disease (e.g., Crohn's disease, ulcerative colitis) or who have slowed movement through the intestinal tract due to diabetes have not been established. If you have digestive system problems, discuss with your doctor how this medication may affect your medical condition, how your medical condition may affect the dosing and effectiveness of this medication, and whether any special monitoring is needed.
Kidney function: Liraglutide can cause dehydration as a result of digestive system side effects such as diarrhea, which in turn, can affect kidney function. Make sure you drink enough fluids to prevent dehydration. The safety and effectiveness of using this medication for people with reduced kidney function has not been studied. If you have reduced kidney function or kidney disease, discuss with your doctor how this medication may affect your medical condition, how your medical condition may affect the dosing and effectiveness of this medication, and whether any special monitoring is needed.
Liver function: The safety and effectiveness of using this medication for people with reduced liver function have not been studied. If you have reduced liver function or liver disease, discuss with your doctor how this medication may affect your medical condition, how your medical condition may affect the dosing and effectiveness of this medication, and whether any special monitoring is needed.
Low blood glucose (hypoglycemia): People who use liraglutide may experience low blood sugar. This may be more likely if you are also taking a sulfonylurea (e.g., glyburide, gliclazide) to control high blood sugar. If you experience symptoms of hypoglycemia such as a cold sweat, nervousness or shakiness, fast heartbeat, headache, hunger, confusion, lightheadedness, weakness, and numbness or tingling of the tongue or lips, contact your doctor.
Pancreatitis (inflammation of the pancreas): Liraglutide can cause pancreatitis. If you experience symptoms of pancreatitis such as severe and persistent abdominal pain that may move to the back with or without vomiting, contact your doctor immediately. If you have previously had pancreatitis, discuss with your doctor how this medication may affect your medical condition, how your medical condition may affect the dosing and effectiveness of this medication, and whether any special monitoring is needed.
Thyroid cancer: In rare cases, people have developed thyroid cancer while using liraglutide. People with a personal or family history of thyroid cancer or people who have multiple endocrine neoplasia syndrome type 2 (a disease where people have tumours in more than one gland in their body) should not use this medication.
Suicidal or depressed behaviour: People using liraglutide may experience new or worsening symptoms of depression, thoughts of self-harm, or change in mood and behavior. If you experience these side effects or notice them in a family member who is taking this medication, contact your doctor immediately.
Pregnancy: Liraglutide has not been studied for use by pregnant women and should not be used during pregnancy. If you become pregnant while using this medication, contact your doctor immediately.
Breast-feeding: It is not known if liraglutide passes into breast milk. If you are breast-feeding and are taking this medication, it may affect your baby. Talk to your doctor about whether you should continue breast-feeding.
Children: This medication may be used for children and adolescents between the ages of 12 and 18 years, who weigh at least 60 kg. The safety and effectiveness of using this medication have not been established for children younger than 12 years of age.
Seniors: Seniors may be more likely to experience side effects associated with liraglutide.
What other drugs could interact with this medication?
There may be an interaction between liraglutide and any of the following:
- acetylsalicylic acid (ASA)
- androgens (e.g., testosterone)
- atypical antipsychotics (e.g., clozapine, olanzapine, quetiapine, risperidone)
- corticosteroids (e.g., budesonide, hydrocortisone, prednisone)
- diabetes medications (e.g., canagliflozin, glyburide, linagliptin, insulin, metformin, rosiglitazone)
- estrogens (e.g., conjugated estrogen, estradiol, ethinyl estradiol)
- hepatitis C antivirals (e.g., elbasvir, grazoprevir, ledipasvir, sofosbuvir, velpatasvir)
- HIV protease inhibitors (e.g., atazanavir, indinavir, ritonavir, saquinavir)
- loop diuretics (e.g., bumetanide, furosemide)
- monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs; e.g., moclobemide, phenelzine, rasagiline, selegiline, tranylcypromine)
- progestins (e.g., dienogest, levonorgestrel, medroxyprogesterone, norethindrone)
- quinolone antibiotics (e.g., ciprofloxacin, norfloxacin, ofloxacin)
- selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs; e.g., citalopram, fluoxetine, paroxetine, sertraline)
- sulfonamide antibiotics ("sulfas"; e.g., sulfisoxazole, sulfamethoxazole)
- thiazide diuretics (e.g., hydrochlorothiazide, indapamide, metolazone)
If you are taking any of these medications, speak with your doctor or pharmacist. Depending on your specific circumstances, your doctor may want you to:
- stop taking one of the medications,
- change one of the medications to another,
- change how you are taking one or both of the medications, or
- leave everything as is.
An interaction between two medications does not always mean that you must stop taking one of them. Speak to your doctor about how any drug interactions are being managed or should be managed.
Medications other than those listed above may interact with this medication. Tell your doctor or prescriber about all prescription, over-the-counter (non-prescription), and herbal medications you are taking. Also tell them about any supplements you take. Since caffeine, alcohol, the nicotine from cigarettes, or street drugs can affect the action of many medications, you should let your prescriber know if you use them.
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