Diabetes can be treated with numerous medications, including oral medicines like metformin, insulin therapy, and other injected drugs like Trulicity, Ozempic, Victoza, or Byetta.
All these medicines have the same function: to help lower blood sugar levels. But they work differently and aren’t always compatible with each other.
While Trulicity and insulin are both injection medicines for diabetes, they differ. So, let's explore. What is Trulicity? What is insulin? What are the differences and similarities between these two diabetes injections? Can you take both simultaneously? Is one better than the other?
Related article: Does insulin need to be refrigerated, and how to store it properly?
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What is insulin?
Insulin is a naturally occurring hormone produced by the pancreas to help use blood sugar for energy. When the body can’t produce insulin (type 1 diabetes) or becomes resistant to insulin (type 2 diabetes), insulin therapy may be necessary.
Pharmaceutical insulin is a standard treatment for people with diabetes. Like naturally produced insulin, insulin injections help move the sugar from the bloodstream into the cells that use it immediately as an energy source or store it for later use.
There are more than 20 different types of insulin available. While basal, long-acting insulins work on fasting blood sugars between meals and overnight, bolus, short-acting ones work on after-meal glycemia.
Related article: A beginner’s guide to basal and bolus insulin
What is Trulicity?
Trulicity is the brand name of dulaglutide, a GLP-1 agonist drug. It’s an injectable medicine used in type 2 diabetes management. Like insulin, it helps lower blood sugar and manage diabetes, but it works differently.
Dulaglutide inhibits the release of glucagon, a pancreatic hormone that increases blood sugar levels, and helps stimulate the natural pancreas production of insulin. Therefore, Trulicity is only suitable for people with type 2 diabetes who still have functioning pancreatic cells that produce insulin. It's not efficient in type 1 diabetes, where the body can't produce insulin at all.
Trulicity is manufactured by Eli Lilly and Company Laboratories. It's sold as a single-use injection pen and is usually administered once a week.
Related article: Should you refrigerate Trulicity?
Other diabetes injections
While insulin is the only therapy to manage type 1 diabetes blood sugars, more injectable medicines are available to treat type 2 diabetes. Trulicity is one of them, but not the only one. Other diabetes injections used to lower blood sugar levels in people with type 2 diabetes include:
- Trulicity (dulaglutide)
- Ozempic (semaglutide)
- Byetta (exenatide)
- Victoza (liraglutide)
- Symlin (pramlintide)
- Mounjaro (tirzepatide)
- Lixisenatide (adlyxin)
Most of them belong to the class of GLP-1 agonist drugs (glucagon-like peptide 1 receptor agonist). They work similarly to Trulicity and mimic the action of a naturally occurring hormone called glucagon-like peptide 1 to stimulate the release of insulin.
However, according to the American Diabetes Association, metformin (taken orally) still remains the most prescribed treatment for type 2 diabetics.
Trulicity vs. Insulin: What are the differences?
Trulicity and insulin are not the same. While they’re both administered through subcutaneous injections and used to treat high blood sugar symptoms of diabetes, they do not work in the same ways. However, in some cases, they can be taken together and complement each other.
Whether you should take insulin, Trulicity, or both, ultimately depends on your type of diabetes, HbA1c (glycated hemoglobin), lifestyle, diet, and other factors. Only your doctor can decide which diabetes therapy is best for you.
Here are the main differences between Trulicity and insulin:
Trulicity is for type 2 diabetes only
The first and most crucial difference between Trulicity and insulin is the way they work. While insulin is used to move sugar from the bloodstream to the cells, Trulicity is used to boost the release of insulin.
People with type 1 diabetes whose bodies can't produce insulin at all can only be treated with insulin. There’s no point in administering Trulicity to a type 1 diabetic patient because the body won’t respond (it can’t produce insulin on its own).
On the other hand, people with type 2 diabetes can be treated with various medicines, including metformin, GPL-1 agonists like Trulicity, insulin, and others. In most cases, people with type 2 diabetes are still able to produce their own insulin from the pancreas naturally. Therefore, unlike type 1 diabetics, they do not always need to take insulin. They may be prescribed with the following:
- Metformin (taken orally, improves the way the body uses the insulin and lessens the amount of sugar produced and absorbed by the body)
- GPL-1 drugs like Trulicity (taken by subcutaneous injections, stimulate the natural release of insulin)
- Other diabetes drugs.
In some cases, when type 2 diabetes patients are diagnosed with insulin resistance, for example, additional insulin injections may also help improve blood sugar control.
Insulin is taken daily
Another essential difference between Trulicity and insulin is the frequency of their administration. While insulin is usually administered daily, sometimes several times a day, Trulicity is administered only once a week.
Different side effects
When you and your doctor are considering a new diabetes treatment, side effects must be considered too. Trulicity and insulin share some common side effects, but each also causes specific ones.
Both Trulicity and insulin can cause low blood sugar (hypoglycemia) and associated symptoms like weakness, lack of energy, shaking, rapid breathing, hunger, irritability, sweating, etc.
Severe hypoglycemia mainly occurs with insulin and more rarely with Trulicity.
On the other hand, Trulicity may cause the following side effects that are not present in insulin therapy: nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, loss of appetite, diarrhea, constipation, bloating, gastrointestinal reflux, and others.
Can you take Trulicity and insulin together?
Yes, you can take Trulicity and insulin together. Trulicity for type 2 diabetes can be taken in monotherapy or dual therapy with insulin. However, taking both treatments simultaneously can increase the risks of low blood sugar levels (hypoglycemia), so insulin dosage usually needs to be adjusted.
Only your doctor and diabetes care team can safely decide whether you should take insulin, Trulicity, or both simultaneously to manage type 2 diabetes. Never substitute your diabetes treatment without your doctor’s advice.
Are you taking Trulicity, insulin, or both? What are your experiences with these two diabetes medications? Please share with us in the comment section below!