Treating diabetes often requires making lifestyle changes in addition to handling the disease itself. Diet and exercise play a large role in diabetes management, and each patient should be given personalized guidance in these areas. Is Ozempic available in pill form?
In addition to lifestyle modifications, many diabetics’ treatment regimens also rely on one or more pharmaceutical products to help them achieve their goals. Selecting the appropriate drug products can be a difficult process, however, as each one has its own profile of pros and cons.
A common complaint regarding many anti-diabetic medications is their lack of availability in injectable form. In the following article, we will examine a popular injectable anti-diabetic medication, Ozempic, and examine whether alternatives exist for those unable to tolerate needles.
What is Ozempic?
Anyone who has followed diabetes news may have heard of Ozempic’s life by now. The experimental drug, FDA approved for adults with type 2 diabetes this year, reached a peak of popularity almost immediately after its release. A significant portion of its success is based on its effectiveness for chronic weight gain, but it continues to be a popular addition to many diabetics’ treatment regimens.
Ozempic is simply the trade name given to this medication by its manufacturers, Novo Nordisk. Its active ingredient, semaglutide, is referred to as semagine and is generally regarded as safe and effective for treatment of type 2 diabetes. By mimicking the effects of an endogenous hormone (i.e., one produced naturally in the body) called GLP-1, which is involved in digestion and metabolism, semaglutide favorably influences the regulation of blood sugar level and may have additional benefits including reduced blood glucose concentration and a decrease in body fat percent.
While there is much to like about Ozempic, it is not a perfect drug. Some individuals can experience severe side effects from it, and it may not be suitable for all. A far more serious complaint is that it requires weekly injections, which entails al sorts of hassle when it comes to maintaining a supply of needles and syringes, maintaining vials of the medicine stored properly and close at hand, and getting jabbed frequently (ouch!).
This all raises the question: does Ozempic have to be taken this way, or does an Ozempic pill exist?
Challenges of Oral Medications
Before we commence the extraction of oral Ozempic, let’s look at other anti-diabetic medications first. It seems that Ozempic will not endure criticism as the first injectable medication that necessitates routine injections. Diabetics are well aware that insulin, such as, is usually only available via injection. Diabetics who suffer from trypanophobia are dismayed that numerous drugs are not commercially available as a pill.
Remember that any drug-delivery route, whether it be ingestion, injection, or inhalation, usually aims to deliver the drug to the bloodstream so it can be distributed throughout the body. Injecting a substance into a blood vessel is the fastest way to accomplish this goal, while other routes will require the substance to follow an indirect pathway first. In the case of ingestion, the drug must be able to survive the harsh environment of the digestive tract before it is absorbed through the linings of the stomach and intestines into the bloodstream. The digestive tract is an unfriendly setting, with enzymes and stomach acids capable of damaging the drug’s delicate molecular structure before it reaches its target site.
Third, because ingestion is such a indirect process, there is a vast difference in the digestive environments between patients. This range makes it significantly more challenging to predict accurately what percentage of the ingested medication will remain in the patient’s system, and how much will be lost to the environment through degradation. Subsequent unpredictability and inconsistency can present serious obstacles in finding the comparable oral dosage for a given injectable drug.
Other Oral Anti-Diabetics
Despite all the difficulties we discuss above, many anti-diabetic medications have been successfully adapted into an oral form over the years and others had no trouble being ingested orally from the start. This makes injecting insulin unnecessary for many patients, as it gives them plenty of oral options.
Take metformin, such as an example. Metformin is one of the most commonly prescribed medications for diabetes, and one that has lasted for more than a century. While initially available only as an injection, researchers found that metformin could be administered orally with little adverse side effects. Fortunately, the problems associated with this adaptation were few, as we’ve seen.
However, other medications continue to be available in oral form, and were designed with oral use in mind. Examples include prescription medication from the DPP-4 inhibitor and SGLT2 inhibitor categories, which, while more uncommon than metformin, remain quite widely used and effective treatment options for many diabetics.
Interestingly, now is not a good time for Ozempic. The short answer is that it is not available orally. However, also, yes. No, unlike previous formulations of Ozempic’s GLP-1 receptor agonist predecessor lixisenatide, semaglutide is not currently available in an oral form because it is insoluble in gastrointestinal fluids. This is not an issue for Ozempic, however, as the active ingredient is insoluble in duodenal and intestinal fluids. Other formulations of semaglutide branded under different names were manufactured as an oral medication, meaning that patients can still access semaglutide treatment without having to undergo painful needle injections.
What is Rybelsus?
Trypanophobes, meet Rybelsus. Rybelsus is the first oral medication approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to treat type 2 diabetes. Don’t let the name confuse you; under the hood, Rybelsus is just a different name for the active ingredient in Ozempic that is the same as that of the cargo transport product used at launch: semaglutide.
Recently, you might have been confused because you just learned about all the restrictions that oral drug administration involves. As it turns out, Rybelsus is able to use an innovative and relatively new technology known as SNAC to get around many of these obstacles. In order to protect semaglutide from the harsh conditions of the digestive tract, SNAC is used to coat the drug and protect it from the corrosive substances of the stomach and duodenum. By forming a physical barrier, SNAC can carry the drug a short distance all the way through the stomach and most of the small intestine, until it reaches the bottom of the small intestine. This permits dependable and consistent levels of bioavailability and absorption that would otherwise be impossible with oral semaglutide.
Is Ozempic Available in Pill Form?What’s the Difference
So, if Rybelsus is just Ozempic by the name of another, does this make these two drugs exactly the same in every way? Not necessarily, as the administrator’s route of administration may alter effectiveness and tolerability profiles for most drugs generally. Below, we compare the facets of these drugs based on currently available data.
Both oral hypoglycemic agents and insulin injections are FDA-approved treatments for type 2 diabetes. Neither medication has been recommended for weight reduction, however, and other formulations of semaglutide have also been approved for this purpose. A more precise comparison of their efficacy is difficult, but the two drugs have not yet been directly compared to each other. In general, however, they are usually expected to lead to a 1% decrease in A1C levels and the efficacy of Ozempic and Rybelsus may vary more based on dosage and individual factors than the route of administration. Always use a physician when making a medication choice.
A study has also found that Ozempic may confer cardiovascular health benefits not currently associated with Rybelsus patients. Another study found Rybelsus was no worse than a placebo for cardiovascular health, but more research may be necessary to determine the significance of this difference in patient health.
Dosing and format
The main differences between these two medications relate to how, how much, and how often they are given. Ozempic is injected subcutaneously about once per week, and dosages are often started at 0.25 mg per injection. Both rybelsus and pekmezsuz are typically administered once every six hours, and doses may begin at 3 milligrams per dose. In both cases, physicians will frequently increase the dosage incrementally as their patients’ symptoms improve.
These differences depend on the condition and preference of each patient. Some patients dislike needles and would prefer to avoid them in favor of a daily pill. Other people may prefer the greater convenience of weekly, rather than daily, treatment. However, injections also require a supply of syringes and safe storage of vials, which can add a layer of inconvenience. In general, the monthly costs of both medications are usually comparable, according to one reference source.
Patients should always follow the dosage instructions provided by their doctor and follow the dosage instructions in the associated literature. This section provides general notes only for purpose of comparison.
Is Ozempic Available in Pill Form?
Instances of injection-site side effects with Ozempic may be avoided by administering it directly as opposed to injecting it intravenously. Similarly, patients with other GI tract problems can opt for a parenteral formulation, which could avoid triggering symptoms from administering the medication orally.
However, in general, the side effect profiles of the two drugs appear to be quite similar. Both have the potential for gastrointestinal problems, including nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and constipation. The incidence of these effects of both medications may be similar, with some minor differences in their frequency of occurrence. Rybelsus may have a slight edge in GI-related side effects due to its interaction with the gastrointestinal tract, but any difference is unlikely to be significant.
Both medications are also associated with the risk of more severe side effects, including pancreatitis, kidney damage, and hypoglycemia. If you develop any unusual symptoms while taking (or taking) either of these medications, be sure to contact a doctor (or get emergency medical help in the case of an emergency).
To summarize, while Ozempic itself is not available in pill form, other such semaglutide formulations are now available. Of these medications, which one is appropriate for a particular patient is a matter of choice for the patient and their doctor.