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Medically reviewed by
Constance Tambakis Odom, MD graduated in 1987 with her Doctorate of Medicine from the New York Medical College, and was an Anesthesiologist Resident from 1988 to 1991 at the Brookdale Medical Center PGY II (CA-I)-PGY IV (CA-III). She is Board Certified by the American Board of Anesthesiology since 1998 and American Academy of Anti-Aging Medicine since 2002. Constance Odom, MD is affiliated with the American Medical Association, American Academy of Anti-Aging Medicine, American Society of Anesthesiology, Georgia Society of Anesthesiology, Hellenic Medical Society of New York, North Carolina Society of Anesthesiology, and Society of Ambulatory Anesthesia.
When a person is overweight, it can lead to a host of mental and emotional problems. From feeling insecure to being unable to participate in activities that they enjoy, even a few extra pounds makes a big difference. While many are aware of these implications, they may not understand the toll that carrying extra weight can take on their physical health. From heart disease and high blood pressure to sleep apnea, these conditions can take years off of a person’s life. By losing as little as 5-10% of one's body weight; however, the risk of developing these life-threatening complications of obesity is drastically reduced. Medical experts recommend diet and exercise to reach these goals, but in some circumstances additional aids are necessary. One way that physicians are helping certain patients to lose weight fast is by prescribing a medication known as Trulicity.
Trulicity is the brand name of a medication called dulaglutide. The medication first hit the market in 2014 when it was introduced as a treatment for type 2 diabetes. It was approved for this use by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and later also gained approval by the establishment as a medication to reduce cardiovascular events such as heart attacks, pulmonary embolism, or arrhythmias in certain patients. Aside from the FDA-approved uses for Trulicity, it is prescribed by health care professionals for weight loss and weight management in patients that have type 2 diabetes.
Essentially, Trulicity treats those with type 2 diabetes by activating a receptor in the pancreas, known as the GLP-1 receptor. When this receptor is activated by the medication, it notifies the body that it needs to release more insulin. In turn, this reduces the amount of sugar that enters the patient's blood while simultaneously decreasing the rate at which food is digested. This allows the individual with type 2 diabetes to have better control of their blood sugar levels. Patients that take Trulicity note significantly lower A1C levels (or average sugar levels in the blood for 3 months) with just one dose of the medication. This allows these patients to have a better quality of life where their blood sugar levels remain more stabilized and they have fewer episodes of symptoms related to the disease.
When it comes to weight loss, the exact mechanism of action is not fully understood. Because one of the biggest side effects of Trulicity is a decreased appetite; however, it is believed that this could be the biggest key contributor to the success of the medication in helping patients lose weight. Additionally, the medication does slow down digestion which likely helps those who take the medication to feel fuller longer. Over time, this can aid significantly in helping an overweight individual with type 2 diabetes lose weight which, in turn, helps them to have better control of their condition and others that may be related. Despite this, Trulicity must be used in combination with a healthy lifestyle for diabetics. Those who take the medication must continue to eat a diet that is recommended by their medical team and exercise regularly to see maximum results from the medication in terms of both weight loss and diabetes management.
Unlike many other medications, Trulicty is not administered in pill form. It must be injected subcutaneously (or under the skin) once each week when used for the treatment of type 2 diabetes. When a patient first begins taking Trulicity, they will start with a dosage of 0.75 mg which may later be increased if needed. The maximum recommended dose of Trulicity is 4.5 mg per week, but physicians will prescribe higher doses in small increments to determine the lowest, most effective dose for controlling type 2 diabetes in each individual.
Trulicity comes in a single-dose pen form and is ready to be injected when it is picked up from the pharmacy. This medication is recommended for adults 18 and older who do not have a history of certain conditions including type 1 diabetes, stomach, and intestinal problems, or certain disorders involving the pancreas. Although Trulicity is a diabetes medication, it cannot be mixed with insulin in a needle for administration. Trulicity and insulin should be administered separately and exactly as directed by a medical doctor. Patients are also instructed by their medical provider on how to properly cleanse the skin and inject the medication into their stomach, thigh, or arm when the doctor opts to prescribe the medication for the first time. To minimize bruising or soreness in one area, doctors recommend that the patient uses a variety of injection points.
When a medical doctor prescribes a medication to a patient, they believe that the benefit of the medication drastically outweighs any side effects that may occur as a result of taking it. Despite this, side effects are common and their severity will vary from one person to the next. Some of the most common side effects of Trulicity include:
Decreased appetite/weight loss
In most cases, these side effects occur within the first 2-3 days after a weekly Trulicity injection is administered. Most patients report that the side effects are mild and subside after 2 weeks; however, symptoms may re-emerge when the dosage is changed or immediately following a weekly treatment. Those that experience ongoing, painful, or severe side effects from this medication should seek medical treatment immediately. Although rare, the potential for serious adverse reactions to Trulicity can occur. Side effects that warrant immediate attention, include:
Signs of dehydration (such as decreased urination or thirst)
Severe stomach or abdominal pain
Persistent nausea or vomiting that does not improve
Low blood sugar
Rash, itching, or swelling near the injection site, face/neck, or tongue
In addition to common side effects, those who take Trulicity are also warned that the medication has the potential to cause extreme effects. One of the most serious warnings issued by the FDA is the risk of thyroid cancer. Those who take Trulicity should monitor themselves for the development of any lumps or swelling in the neck, in addition to difficulties with swallowing or breathing. These symptoms may indicate thyroid cancer and should be evaluated immediately by a doctor. Other serious warnings that are issued regarding the medication include the risk of pancreatitis or digestive difficulties.
To prevent serious complications from taking Trulicity to control type 2 diabetes and assist with weight loss, it is crucial to openly discuss each patient’s medical and family history. Those who have medical conditions like certain allergies, kidney problems, liver problems, or diabetic retinopathy should not take Trulicity for treatment of type 2 diabetes as it can make their existing health issues much worse. Patients who have a personal or family history of thyroid cancer also cannot take Trulicity, as it may significantly increase their risk of developing this form of cancer. In these scenarios, alternative treatments for diabetes management and weight loss are needed.
Additionally, the medication is not recommended for women who are pregnant or breastfeeding. This is because studies in animals have indicated that the medication may potentially cause harm to the fetus. Despite this, each patient is unique and should work with their doctor carefully to determine the safest and most beneficial way to control type 2 diabetes or weight during pregnancy.
When taking Trulicity for type 2 diabetes management and weight loss, all other medications or supplements the patient is taking should be made available to the doctor to ensure that there is no serious risk of interactions. While many only consider interactions that may occur with other prescription medications, medications like Trulicity can also interact with over-the-counter medications, vitamins, and herbal supplements. Some medications that interact negatively with Trulicity, include bexarotene, gatifloxacin, lithium, and pseudoephedrine. Users of Trulicity are also advised to avoid the consumption of alcohol as the alcohol may interact with the medication and can affect blood glucose levels.
Trulicity is not a weight loss drug and it is not recommended for everyone who needs to shed a few pounds. The medication is generally only prescribed to individuals who are struggling with type 2 diabetes and looking for a way to regulate the amount of sugar that enters their bloodstream. In addition to controlling blood sugar levels and aiding the pancreas in releasing insulin, certain side effects also contribute to weight loss. Whether a decreased appetite or the way that the medications interact with one’s metabolism, it is effective for reducing and maintaining weight. In some cases, a doctor may prescribe the medication specifically for weight loss but this is an off-label use as it is not FDA-approved in patients without type 2 diabetes. When a doctor does prescribe Trulicity for weight loss, it is because they have determined that the benefits of weight loss outweigh the side effects and warnings of the medication. If they do not believe this to be the case, they will likely recommend an alternative weight loss medication.
Those who do not have diabetes should consider alternative methods for weight loss, along with those who have health conditions like liver and kidney problems or diabetic retinopathy. It is also important to note that taking Trulicity on its own is not sufficient for long-term weight loss. Patients must also exercise and follow the diets and nutritional needs recommended by their doctors to ensure that they can lose weight effectively without experiencing low blood sugar or complications in managing their diabetes. Those who are interested in taking Trulicity to manage diabetes and lose weight should also be aware that the medication is only effective for the treatment of type 2 diabetes and cannot be used for those with type 1 diabetes.
According to numerous studies that have been conducted relating to Trulicity’s ability to enhance weight loss efforts, the medication has performed well in patients with type 2 diabetes who are also overweight. In most studies, patients lost a moderate amount of weight when the medication was taken consistently over several months. In one randomized controlled trial, results suggested that on average patients lost 10 pounds while taking the medication over placebo. Despite this finding, the amount of weight that a person may lose from taking Trulicity injections can vary widely. Factors that contribute to the amount of weight that a patient may lose include their BMI, gender, other health conditions, diet, and exercise regimes. The dosage that an individual takes can also affect how much weight they lose while taking the medication. Typically, those who noted the highest weight loss totals took the maximum dose of 4.5 mg weekly.
Nu Image Medical has strict sourcing guidelines to ensure our content is accurate and current. We rely on peer-reviewed studies, academic research institutions, and medical associations. We strive to use primary sources and refrain from using tertiary references.
This article is for informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. The information contained herein is not a substitute for and should never be relied upon for professional medical advice. Always talk to your physician about the risks and benefits of any treatment. Nu Image Medical may not offer the medications or services mentioned in this article.