Is Trulicity Insulin?

Trulicity is one of the most popular type 2 diabetes drugs on the market, but what exactly is it? Learn how individuals use Trulicity and the potential side effects of this medication.

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by
Rebecca Washuta
— Signos
MS, CNS, LDN
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Reviewed by

Rebecca Washuta
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Updated by

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Science-based and reviewed

Published:
February 7, 2024
November 29, 2023
— Updated:

Table of Contents

Trulicity is a drug that is prescribed to help with the treatment of type 2 diabetes and assist individuals in better managing their blood sugar levels. It’s in a class of drugs called glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1 ) receptor agonists because it works on your body’s GLP-1 receptors found in your pancreas. Trulicity differs from insulin, but the two work in connection with one another. Trulicity stimulates your pancreas to produce more insulin, lowering your blood sugar. 

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Understanding How Trulicity Works

To understand how Trulicity works, let’s do a quick refresher on blood sugar, insulin, and type 2 diabetes. When your blood sugar rises (from food, stress, etc.), your pancreas releases insulin. Insulin acts as the key that opens the lock and allows the sugar molecules (also called glucose molecules) to move from the bloodstream and into cells, thus lowering the concentration of glucose in the blood. In someone with type 2 diabetes, their pancreas either doesn’t generate enough insulin to keep up with demand, or their body isn’t able to properly utilize the insulin they are producing (otherwise known as insulin resistance). 

This results in elevated blood sugar levels, which can damage blood vessels and lead to serious complications like cardiovascular disease and kidney disease.2 Therefore, the primary concern of someone with type 2 diabetes is ensuring they have consistently low blood sugar levels.

Now, let’s dive into how Trulicity works. Trulicity, also known as dulaglutide, is a subcutaneous injection into the skin (typically of the upper arm, abdomen, or thigh) once weekly. It was approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in November 2022 as a supplement to diet and exercise to improve glycemic control in individuals over 10 with type 2 diabetes mellitus. Once absorbed into the body, Trulicity activates GLP-1 receptors found in pancreatic beta cells. These cells are responsible for insulin production, storage, and release.1 

Trulicity works to lower your blood sugar in three ways:

  • It triggers the pancreas to release more insulin, which allows cells to absorb glucose from the bloodstream. 
  • It inhibits a hormone called glucagon, which reduces the amount of sugar released into the bloodstream from the liver. 
  • It slows down the rate at which food leaves your stomach (a process known as gastric emptying), which helps you feel fuller longer and potentially eat less.3 

Considerations Before Using Trulicity Pen

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Here are some things to keep in mind before you start using Trulicity:

  • It should be used in conjunction with proper diet and exercise.
  • It can be administered once per week at any time.
  • It can be taken with or without food.
  • It’s recommended patients maintain a consistent weekly schedule for injections.
  • Your healthcare provider can help you choose the part of your body that’s best for the injection site.
  • The Trulicity pen should be stored in the refrigerator but can be stored at room temperature for up to 14 days.3
  • It's important to safely dispose of your Trulicity pens in a sharps container. If you don’t have a sharps container,e, try using a puncture-resistant container with a lid (like a coffee can or laundry detergent bottle).3

9 Steps for Using Trulicity Pen

Tulicity was designed to be simple and straightforward to use. In a clinical study (funded by the pharmaceutical company that makes the drug, Eli Lilly and Company), 94% of patients reported that it was easy to use.3 

Follow the steps below to use the Trulicity Pen:

  1. Remove the pen from the refrigerator.
  2. Check the pen label to make sure it has not expired.
  3. Wash your hands.
  4. Pull the base cap off the pen and make sure the pen is locked.
  5. Place the base of the pen against your skin at the injection site.
  6. Unlock the pen.
  7. Press and hold the injection button. You will hear a loud click.
  8. Continue holding the pen firmly against your skin until you hear a second click. This happens when the needle starts retracting in about 5 to 10 seconds.
  9. Remove the pen from your skin and properly discard it.

If you miss your dose of Trulicity, use the medication as soon as possible, within three days after your missed dose. If you miss your dose by more than three days, wait until your next regular weekly injection.3

Trulicity Side Effects

Like all pharmaceuticals, Trulicity may cause some undesirable side effects. Discuss the potential side effects with your doctor before starting Trulicity. With the rise of GLP-1 receptor agonists being used for weight loss, many individuals wonder if Trulicity can help them shed unwanted pounds. While Trulicity is not a weight loss drug, individuals, on average, lose two to six pounds while taking this medication.

Trulicity should not be used by those living with type 1 diabetes or with existing medical conditions, such as severe stomach or intestinal problems.3 Individuals under the age of 10 should also not use Trulicity.

Below are some common and serious side effects of Trulicity.

1. Common Side Effects:

  • Gastrointestinal issues³
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Stomach pain
  • Diarrhea
  • Loss of appetite
  • Fatigue

2. Allergic Reactions:

  • Hives
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Swelling

3. Serious Side Effects:

  • Pancreatitis³
  • Hypoglycemia
  • Gallbladder disease
  • Kidney problems and damage
  • Severe stomach problems
  • Thyroid cancer (medullary thyroid carcinoma) or thyroid tumors

Alternative Medications to Trulicity for Diabetes

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Approximately 38 million Americans live with type 2 diabetes, and that number is continuing to grow.2 Fortunately, along with a healthy diet and regular exercise routine, there are many pharmaceuticals that can help keep your blood sugar in check. 

Below are some alternative medications to Trulicity. Talk to a healthcare professional to determine which options are right for you.

Trulicity Pros and Cons

Trulicity has shown to be effective at improving blood glucose levels in patients with type 2 diabetes, but it’s not without its downsides. Below is a list of pros and cons you should consider before starting this medication.

Pros

  • It can be taken at any time, with or without food.
  • It has been shown to improve glycemic control and lower HbA1C (when combined with diet, exercise, and other diabetes medications).
  • It can reduce the risk of adverse cardiovascular events (like heart attack and stroke).
  • It is administered through a pre-filled injection pen.
  • Individuals only require a once-weekly dose of Trulicity.

Cons

  • It can only be administered through injections.
  • Common side effects include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and abdominal pain.
  • It may cause serious conditions like pancreatitis or thyroid cancer.
  • It should be used with caution during breastfeeding, especially when nursing a newborn or preterm infant.

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References

  1. Bartolomé A. (2023). The Pancreatic Beta Cell: Editorial. Biomolecules, 13(3), 495. https://doi.org/10.3390/biom13030495
  2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2023, April 18). Type 2 diabetes. https://www.cdc.gov/diabetes/basics/type2.html 
  3. Trulicity. (2023). What is Trulicity? https://www.trulicity.com/

About the author

Rebecca Washuta is a licensed dietitian with degrees in neuroscience and nutrition and helped individuals develop long-term health habits and achieve various wellness goals.

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