- What is Trulicity (Dulaglutide)?
- How does Trulicity work?
- What are the side effects of Trulicity?
- How long do Trulicity side effects last?
- Will the side effects of Trulicity go away?
- Ways to reduce the side effects of Trulicity
- Things to avoid while taking Trulicity
- What are the side effects of stopping Trulicity?
If your healthcare provider recommends a prescription medication to help you manage your diabetes, you probably have a few questions.
Medications can be helpful for many people, but they come with certain risks and side effects.
It can be beneficial to do your research and learn about a medication that your doctor might recommend to you, such as Trulicity.
Keep reading to learn what the side effects of Trulicity are, and how you can reduce them.
What is Trulicity (Dulaglutide)?
Trulicity is a brand name for the medication dulaglutide. Dulaglutide is part of a class of medications called GLP-1 receptor agonists and is used to treat type 2 diabetes. People with type 1 diabetes aren’t meant to take Trulicity.
Trulicity is a non-insulin injection that comes in a pen (a device that contains and injects the medication). The common dosages for Trulicity range from 0.75-4.5 milligrams weekly.
Your healthcare provider might recommend Trulicity if you’re not meeting your blood sugar goals on oral medications like metformin or sulfonylureas. One of the benefits of Trulicity is that it isn’t known to commonly cause hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) like sulfonylureas and insulin can.
How does Trulicity work?
Trulicity works by acting on the GLP-1 receptors in your body. GLP-1 receptors in your pancreas (the same organ that produces insulin) help increase insulin secretion, which lowers blood sugars.
If you have type 2 diabetes, you likely have insulin resistance or don’t make enough insulin. Without enough insulin present, your blood sugar levels will stay high. Trulicity helps activate these GLP-1 receptors to boost insulin secretion and lower blood glucose levels.
GLP-1 receptor agonist medications like Trulicity also help reduce the secretion of glucagon, a hormone that raises blood sugar levels.
Trulicity might also help you lose weight. GLP-1 receptor agonists reduce hunger and promote fullness by slowing the rate at which your stomach empties. Losing weight if you’re overweight or obese can help improve insulin sensitivity and lower blood sugar levels, which is an added benefit of taking Trulicity.
What are the side effects of Trulicity?
All medications come with potential side effects. Some are common and not very serious, while others can be rare and serious.
Common side effects
The most common side effects you’re likely to experience with Trulicity are:
- Abdominal Pain
- Decreased appetite
Many of these side effects are related to the delayed stomach emptying that Trulicity causes.
Low blood sugar isn’t a common side effect of Trulicity, but it is a possible side effect. You’re more likely to develop hypoglycemia if taking Trulicity and other blood sugar-lowering medications like sulfonylureas or insulin.
Symptoms of low blood sugar often include sweating, dizziness, hunger, fast heartbeat, irritability, and nervousness.
Rare side effects
While rare, there is a risk of developing thyroid cancer while taking Trulicity. Avoid Trulicity if you or anyone in your family have had medullary thyroid carcinoma (MTC), a type of thyroid cancer. You also shouldn’t take Trulicity if you have Multiple Endocrine Neoplasia syndrome type 2 (MEN 2).
While rare, there is a small chance that you could develop pancreatitis while taking Trulicity. Some patients taking Trulicity developed pancreatitis.
However, one study on the topic noted that patients with diabetes already have a higher risk of pancreatitis compared to those without. Therefore, it’s difficult to determine how much greater risk there is from taking Trulicity.
Trulicity’s safety information states that it “isn’t known” if Trulicity can be used in people who have had pancreatitis. If you have a history of pancreatitis, you should consult your healthcare provider to determine if Trulicity is a good fit for you.
If you develop symptoms of pancreatitis while taking Trulicity, you should stop taking it immediately and consult your healthcare provider.
Symptoms of pancreatitis include:
- Upper abdominal pain
- Abdominal pain that radiates to your back
- Tenderness when touching your abdomen
- Rapid pulse
There is a chance that you could be allergic to Trulicity or its ingredients. Some symptoms of drug allergy can include:
- Skin rash
- Shortness of breath
- Runny nose
- Itchy, watery eyes
Trulicity might lower your blood sugars quickly if it works well for you. Rapid lowering of blood sugar levels can temporarily worsen diabetic retinopathy.
Diabetic retinopathy is a condition where nerves in your eyes are damaged from high blood sugar levels and can lead to vision loss and blindness if left untreated.
According to studies, patients who had rapid improvement in blood sugar levels while taking dulaglutide had worsening of their diabetic retinopathy.
If you experience a change in vision while taking Trulicity, let your healthcare provider know right away.
If you experience severe nausea and vomiting while taking Trulicity, it can lead to dehydration. Severe dehydration can worsen kidney disease and cause kidney injuries in people without kidney disease.
Increased heart rate
Trulicity can increase your heart rate, which is tachycardia. In one case study, a patient taking Trulicity had an increase in her heart rate by 60 beats per minute, which also worsened her heart condition (atrial fibrillation).
If you notice a change in your heart rate while taking Trulicity, consult your healthcare provider or cardiologist for guidance.
How long do Trulicity side effects last?
If you develop side effects like nausea, it’ll likely occur within the first couple of days of taking your first dose. In most cases, side effects go away after a couple of weeks.
Everyone is different, so you might experience side effects longer than two weeks, or you might not have any side effects.
Will the side effects of Trulicity go away?
Most of the time, medication side effects go away after you get used to the medication. Many healthcare providers will urge you to use a new medication for at least a month before discontinuing it due to side effects.
However, if you’re experiencing severe side effects with no improvement, you should talk to your healthcare provider about your options.
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Ways to reduce the side effects of Trulicity
While you can’t avoid some side effects, you can do your part to reduce the risk of developing potential side effects. Here are some guidelines for reducing the possible side effects of Trulicity:
- Don’t increase your dose without the guidance of your healthcare provider. You should gradually increase your dose of Trulicity over a few weeks as per the guidance from your prescribing provider.
- Tell your healthcare provider if you have a family or personal history of thyroid cancer and/or pancreatitis.
- Take Trulicity once weekly on a schedule. If you miss a dose of Trulicity and there are at least three more days (72 hours) until your next scheduled dose, take the missed dose and then continue with your regularly scheduled weekly doses. If there are fewer than three days until your next dose, skip the missed dose entirely and resume your normal weekly injection schedule.
- Eat small meals and snacks, avoiding fatty foods and other foods that worsen any nausea you might experience
- Stop taking Trulicity if you experience a lump or swelling in your neck, which could indicate thyroid problems.
- Consider taking over-the-counter medications for upset stomach, indigestion, and other minor gastrointestinal symptoms as needed while you get used to Trulicity.
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Things to avoid while taking Trulicity
Excessive alcohol intake
Avoid drinking excessively while taking Trulicity, as alcohol can cause low blood sugar in large amounts.
High-sugar foods and drinks
High-fat foods can worsen nausea, so stick to a bland diet as you get used to Trulicity.
What are the side effects of stopping Trulicity?
The main side effect you might experience after stopping Trulicity is higher blood sugar levels. Otherwise, there aren’t known side effects of stopping the medication. There aren’t any known reasons that you could stop taking Trulicity “cold turkey” versus weaning off of it.
The most common side effects of Trulicity are stomach-related like nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, and indigestion. Other more rare but serious potential side effects include thyroid cancer, pancreatitis, and worsening of diabetic retinopathy.
If your healthcare provider prescribes Trulicity, they believe the perceived benefits outweigh the risks. You should discuss your treatment plan and medication options with your provider so you can make an informed decision. You could also consider some natural trulicity alternatives that typically have fewer side effects than pharmaceuticals.