Home Drugs Victoza

Victoza (Liraglutide)

Victoza is a once-daily injectable Type 2 diabetes drug that works by stimulating insulin production in the body. Victoza can also help with weight loss and decrease the risk of cardiovascular events. Common side effects include nausea and diarrhea, and it has a black box warning for thyroid cancer.

Last Modified: April 16, 2024
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What Is Victoza?

Victoza (liraglutide) is a prescription medication used to treat Type 2 diabetes that’s part of a class of drugs known as GLP-1 agonists. It works by helping the pancreas make more insulin when a person eats, and it also slows the digestion of food.

In June 2019, the company received FDA approval to expand Victoza’s label to allow for its use in children and adolescents aged 10-17 with Type 2 diabetes. Researchers also studied the potential use of Victoza for Type 1 diabetes. However, as of March 2024, it hasn’t been approved for this indication.

Victoza reduced the risk of heart attack, stroke and death from cardiovascular issues in patients with Type 2 diabetes when compared to a placebo.

Victoza is in the same GLP-1 class as the popular drugs, Ozempic (semaglutide) and Mounjaro (tirzepatide). Novo Nordisk manufactures Ozempic and Victoza, while Eli Lilly manufactures Mounjaro. Demand for Ozempic is high, and in November 2023, Novo Nordisk said it would cut production of Victoza and increase Ozempic production.

The drugs have similar gastrointestinal side effects, including reports of gastroparesis. Patients who took Ozempic have filed Ozempic lawsuits claiming Novo Nordisk failed to warn the public about the risk of gastroparesis, intestinal blockages and severe vomiting.

Lawsuit Information
Lawsuits are being filed by people who developed severe gastroparesis after using Ozempic.
View Lawsuits

How Victoza Works

Victoza works in the pancreas, stomach and liver to help reduce blood sugar. It stimulates natural insulin production in the pancreas when a person eats. It slows the speed at which food leaves the stomach, which helps to prevent a rapid rise in blood sugar levels.

Lastly, it works to keep the liver from making excess sugar. Along with a healthy diet and exercise routine, the drug effectively reduces blood sugar.

Victoza stimulates insulin production in the pancreas.

How To Take Victoza

Victoza is available as an injectable pen. Patients administer Victoza once a day by injecting the prescription pen into their thigh, upper arm or stomach. Victoza can be taken any time of day and does not have to be taken with food.

The manufacturer recommends establishing a routine to help patients remember to inject the drug at the same time each day. Providers should instruct patients on how to use the Victoza pen. The prefilled 6 mg/mL pens can last up to 30 days, depending on the daily dosage (0.6 mg, 1.2 mg or 1.8 mg); however, unused medication should not be taken after 30 days of first use of the pen.
If patients are taking Victoza with insulin, they should inject each drug separately and never mix the two solutions.

How Effective Is Victoza for Blood Sugar Control?

Patients taking Victoza had favorable results regarding A1C, a measure of glucose concentration over two to three months. Victoza helped lower blood sugar in as short as two weeks. A two-year study found the levels remained down.

“Clinical trials have demonstrated that semaglutide is more effective [than liraglutide] for both blood sugar improvement and weight reduction, though individual responses may vary.”
Dr. Maria Anton, endocrinologist and educator at the Pritikin Longevity Center

Victoza also helped lower fasting blood sugar, which is the blood sugar level when a patient has not eaten food, in people with Type 2 diabetes. A normal fasting blood sugar level is less than 100 mg/dL after not eating anything for at least eight hours. In people with Type 2 diabetes, these levels are much higher.

“Victoza 1.8 mg taken alone or in combination with other diabetes medications lowered A1C in adults by 1.0% to 1.5%, on average, in medical studies,” according to Novo Nordisk’s Victoza website.

Victoza for Weight Loss

Victoza isn’t approved for weight loss, but it can help Type 2 diabetes patients lose a modest amount of weight.

According to Novo Nordisk, when taking Victoza with metformin, patients in one study lost an average of 6.2 pounds with a dose of 1.2 mg after 26 weeks. Patients in this study using the higher dose of 1.8 mg lost an average of 7.4 pounds.

However, the FDA has approved liraglutide for weight loss in the form of Saxenda, which contains a higher dose than Victoza does.

“Saxenda, or the FDA-approved version of [Victoza] (liraglutide) for weight loss, has been around since 2014. Studies have shown that Ozempic causes about 2-2.5 times more weight loss than Saxenda.”
Antoni Adamrovich, Nurse Practitioner and Co-Owner of TB2.Health

Common Side Effects

In clinical trials for Victoza-related side effects, Novo Nordisk gathered data from 1,673 adult patients over five clinical trials. The average age of trial participants was 58 years, and the majority of participants were white males.

Trial participants took Victoza for about 37 weeks. The most common side effects occurred in 5% or more of the study participants. The occurrence of side effects increased with the highest dose of the drug.

Common side effects include:
  • Back pain
  • Constipation
  • Decreased appetite
  • Dyspepsia (indigestion)
  • Diarrhea
  • Headache
  • Nausea
  • Nasopharyngitis (common cold)
  • Upper respiratory tract infection
  • Vomiting

Gastrointestinal problems, injection site reactions, and hypoglycemia also occurred in fewer than 5% of patients.

Serious Side Effects

Though it is effective in controlling blood sugar, Victoza may be linked to dangerous side effects, including pancreatitis and thyroid cancer. The Victoza label also warns of the potential for serious hypoglycemia (low blood sugar), renal impairment and acute gallbladder disease.

Serious Victoza side effects include:
  • Pancreatitis
  • Low blood sugar
  • Kidney problems
  • Serious allergic reactions
  • Gallbladder problems

When the drug was first approved, the Institute for Safe Medication Practices (ISMP) reported that the FDA’s clinical safety reviewer recommended against approving the drug because of its link to thyroid tumors in animal studies and an increased risk of pancreatitis.

Also, at the time there was a lack of sufficient studies to rule out an increased risk of heart attack and stroke, which the FDA now requires manufacturers to complete after a diabetes drug is approved.

Is Victoza Safe for Everyone?

Victoza might not be safe for everyone, and it has several contraindications. Patients with these contraindications should not use the drug.

Victoza should be used with caution in patients if they:
  • Use insulin or an insulin secretagogue including sulfonylureas, as there is a risk for low blood sugar. Medication doses may need to be decreased when starting Victoza.
  • Have a kidney impairment, since there is a risk for worsening of kidney function.
  • Caution should be used when Victoza is started or the dose is increased.

The drug’s label and the FDA warn that people with a personal or family history of thyroid cancer or multiple endocrine neoplasia syndrome type 2 should not take Victoza. The label also cautions against its use in patients with certain conditions and warns about additional, more serious side effects.

Additional warnings when using Victoza include a risk for:
  • Acute gallbladder disease, requiring hospitalization and removal of the gallbladder
  • Hypersensitivity reactions, including anaphylaxis
  • Pancreatitis

You should tell your doctor about other medicines you take as well as certain medical conditions you may have before taking Victoza.

Conditions to tell your doctor about include:
  • Current or previous problems with your pancreas, kidneys or liver
  • Severe stomach problems such as digestive problems or slowed emptying of your stomach
  • Are pregnant or plan to become pregnant while on Victoza
  • Are breastfeeding or plan to breastfeed
Please seek the advice of a medical professional before making health care decisions.