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Medically reviewed by, Russell Braun RPH
Victoza also known by chemical name Liraglutide is a new medication used to treat type 2 diabetes. The really great thing about Victoza compare to most other diabetes drugs is that you can actually expect to see weight loss in addition to lowering your overall blood sugar!
Victoza has multiple doses. They range from 0.6mg, 1.2mg and 1.8mg. As you would expect the higher the dose the higher the amount of weight loss that is seen.
Weight loss in clinical trials
According to the manufacturer studies, patients on the 1.8mg dose lost over a year an average of 11 pounds with diet and exercise, compared to 4 pounds in the placebo group. That is an exciting prospect for a Diabetes patient!
Diabetes and Obesity go hand in hand
The most positive aspect of this new class of medications to treat type 2 diabetes is how they are achieving their results. The incretin hormone they work on in the gut tells the brain that you feel full when activated by Victoza or another GLP-1 agonist drug.
When that happens, blood sugar does not spike as high, for as long, which leads to the positive effect on diabetes.
In addition, not eating as many calories leads to weight loss, thus reducing the weight and body mass index (BMI) of the patient. BMI is the main measure used to determine obesity.
Having the ability to fight both Obesity and Diabetes with one drug is unique. Most Diabetes drugs actually make the condition worse over time as these drugs typically increase or adding insulin. Insulin is a hormone that causes the body to store more sugar as fat to remove it from the blood stream and bring blood sugar down. However, in the long run this promotes weight gain and obesity.
Additional Benefits to Weight Loss
- Improve your blood sugar which in turn improves your hemoglobin A1C.
- May reduce your risk for cardiovascular events such as heart attack or stroke.
The key to stabilizing blood sugar is understanding how the food you eat will affect your sugar. The Complete Diabetes Cookbook is a great resource to show you how to do that.
Side Effects to Know
Most people who take Victoza will experience some sort of nausea when starting out. Your doctor will likely recommend starting with the lower 0.6mg dose. The manufacturer recommends starting at 0.6mg for at least seven days before moving up the 1.2mg dose.
If you can tolerate the nausea it will typically go away for most patients but can take up to 6 weeks. You can use anti nausea meds to help with this in the early stages, but remember you should not use this as a long term solution for the problem.
Vomiting, diarrhea and constipation are also listed as common side effects. However, the number one thing I hear patients report is the nausea.
Another side effect that is rare but worth noting is the risk of thyroid tumors. During clinical trials of the drug the risk of these types of tumors was higher in groups of mice that took Victoza than in those who did not.
It is not clear yet if Victoza raises the risk of thyroid tumors in humans, but you should talk to your doctor about this. They need to assess your individual risk based on your family history.
An even higher 3mg dose of liraglutide has been approved as a weight loss drug. It is called Saxenda, but still has the same active ingredient as Victoza, which is Liraglutide.
Believe it or not, this drug is being marketed only for weight loss and not diabetes. That means you need to be careful to ensure you do not take Saxenda along with Victoza or any other drug in the GLP-1 class or insulin. GLP-1 stands for glucagon like peptide receptor 1 agonist, and this is the way that Victoza and Saxenda work in the body. Other drugs in this class that you need to avoid if taking Saxenda are:
- Byetta / Bydureon
Significant weight loss
Saxenda at the 3mg dose has show to provide significant weight loss. The manufacturer states that over the course of a year certain patients could be expected to lose about 14 pounds along with diet and exercise.
Another important note on Saxenda
Since Saxenda is only approved as a weight loss drug, it will NOT be covered by Medicare. Medicare has certain categories of drugs for uses they deem to be non critical for their patients. Obesity drugs are on of those categories.
There is a chance if you have a Medicare Advantage plan you may be able to get coverage. Medicare Advantage plans are slightly different than normal Medicare Prescription Drug Plans.
Another great resource
Along with Victoza changing your eating habits can go a long way to reduce and even eliminate weight gain and diabetes. Reverse diabetes is a must read for all diabetics who want to take back their bodies from this dangerous disease.
Given all the positive outcomes Victoza has shown, it does come at a high price. Victoza is not available generically, which means you have to pay for the brand name medication.
The drug has become more popular than some other GLP-1 drugs in it’s class based on weight loss, hemoglobin A1C results and low rate of side effects. The good news is that has earned Victoza a spot on most Medicare, Medicaid and commercial insurance formularies.
You should check with your insurance to determine if this medication is a preferred formulary, on formulary or non-formulary.
Once you determine the formulary status you want to investigate what the copay cost is for that formulary status. That will give you a sense for what the true cost will be with insurance.
If you look on sites such as GoodRx you will be able to find cash prices for Victoza at pharmacies near you. It is a long shot, but you might be able to get Victoza cheaper for cash depending on your insurance. I searched GoodRx for Victoza and a pack of three pens that contain 18mg was $920 with the GoodRx discount.
That is still a little steep for a months supply!
Don’t stop looking for discount cards though. You might find much more significant savings using these. Googling Victoza discount card is your best bet. Look around, don’t just look at the Victoza copay coupon. That is different and I will explain below. That will be your first set of results.
If you look a bit further down the page you will see some other examples such as:
- Offering Victoza for $50 per month
- Offering up to 80% off Victoza
The manufacturer of Victoza offers a copay coupon. Your doctor may have given you a brochure or you can find the offer on their website.
The section above where I discussed the formulary and the copay you are left with from your insurance is what this copay coupon will pay for. A drug like Victoza may have a high copay amount from your insurance and this coupon will lower that amount.
The coupon card provides for 24 months of savings that makes your copay only $25 per month. After your 24 months is up you have to call to see if you are eligible for more assistance.
You need to be careful of where you fall in a plan year if you have a high deductible health plan. The amount the manufacturer pays toward your copay may not apply toward your deductible and you could be left needing to pay the remaining decutlbe amount.
That could be thousands of dollars!
Patient Assistance Programs
The manufacturer of Victoza, Novo Nordisk also has a patient assistance program. These programs are for patients who can show financial need. They are not only for poor or indigent, many extend assistance to patients with incomes many multiples over the federal poverty limit.
I would recommend you look into this program prior to going the route of the copay coupon.
The copay coupon could leave you in a position where you can no longer afford the drug due to a huge deductible amount remaining. Also, this assistance is completely free, so why not apply for it?
I recommend that you go to the Needymeds website to look for Patient Assistance programs for Victoza. They will have other programs you can apply for and listing of state pharmaceutical assistance programs. Another great thing about Needymeds is they have a list of other services and supplies that diabetic patients can get free or at a discount.
Don’t forget about the pen needle cost
Victoza pens will require you buy pen needles to be able to inject the medication. The manufacturer recommends using the Novofine 32 gauge needle. You can purchase 100 for around $38 which comes close to an additional $12 per month.
Click here to get Dr. Jason Reed’s exclusive list of medication questions you MUST ask your doctor, for FREE!
Share your story!
Do you tried Victoza? Did you lose any weight? Please chime in below with your comments and thoughts below