Is Trulicity Insulin?

By Zina Semenovskaya, MD
Medically reviewed checkmarkMedically reviewed
November 22, 2022

Trulicity is a medication that helps people with type 2 diabetes manage their blood sugar. However, Trulicity is not the same as insulin. It helps to keep blood sugar in check by limiting how much sugar enters the blood from the liver, slows down digestion, and stimulates the pancreas to release more insulin when blood sugar is rising. 

This article explores Trulicity and how it works, including how it differs from insulin. It also covers risks and warnings, and alternatives to taking Trulicity.

What is Trulicity? 

Trulicity is a once-a-week medication designed to help people with type 2 diabetes manage their blood sugar. The medication is intended to work alongside diet and exercise. It also may reduce the risk of major cardiovascular events such as heart attack and stroke in adults with diabetes who are at risk for heart disease.

During testing, 50%-67% of participating adults reached an A1C (a test of your three-month average blood sugar level) of less than 7%, when starting between 8-8.6%. And while it’s not approved as a weight loss drug, during studies with other diabetes medications, weight loss ranged from 0.4 lbs to 10.1 lbs. Individual results may vary.

The makers of Trulicity do not recommend it for people whose diabetes is poorly controlled with diet and exercise. They also do not recommend it for people with type 1 diabetes, diabetic ketoacidosis, or severe diseases of the digestive tract.

Currently, Trulicity has not undergone testing in people with a history of pancreatitis or in combination with basal insulin medications. If you fall into one of these categories, speak with your medical provider about whether Trulicity is right for you.

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Is Trulicity Insulin? 

No, Trulicity works differently than insulin

Insulin is a natural hormone your body releases when blood sugar levels begin to rise. It tells the cells to absorb the sugar from the blood thus helping to stabilize blood sugar levels. For people with type 2 diabetes, taking insulin is meant to replace or increase the amount of insulin available in their bodies. 

Trulicity, on the other hand, triggers the pancreas to release more insulin when blood sugar levels are rising. Because Trulicity and insulin work differently, some people take both medications to help manage their blood sugar.

How Does Trulicity Work? 

Designed for ease, Trulicity is a once-a-week injection. It comes in an easy-to-inject pen which you give yourself at any time of the day. You can also take it with or without food. 

Trulicity has several ways it helps you control your blood sugar such as:

  • Limiting how much sugar your liver releases into your blood.
  • Slow down how quickly food leaves your stomach, keeping you feeling full for longer.
  • Triggering your pancreas to release more insulin when your blood sugar rises. 

How to Use Trulicity Pen

Every dose of Trulicity comes in an easy-to-use injection pen. Once a week, you’ll give yourself an injection at any time of the day. You can take it with food or without. Try to do your injection on the same day each week. However, if you need to switch the day you take it, you can, as long as you don’t take two doses of Trulicity within three days of each other. 

To use the pen, simply remove the cap, unlock the pen, and press and hold it to your cleaned injection site. The optimal locations for injection include your abdomen, the back of your upper arm, and your thigh. To prepare the injection site, rub an alcohol swab in circles over the clean skin a few times and allow the alcohol to dry for 30 seconds. Once dry, your skin is ready for the injection. 

Side Effects

The most common side effect is nausea. In studies about 8%-29% of participants experienced nausea, typically in the first two to three days of taking their first injection. After the first two weeks, nausea generally subsides. Some people also experience nausea when they increase their dose. 

Other common side effects include:

  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Abdominal pain
  • Decreased appetite
  • Indigestion
  • Fatigue

Some serious side effects to be aware of include:

  • Inflamed pancreas: Stop using Trulicity and call your medical provider if you are experiencing severe abdominal pain and vomiting. 
  • Low blood sugar: If using Trulicity with another diabetes medication, your risk of low blood sugar is increased. Watch for signs such as dizziness, light-headedness, confusion, drowsiness, headache, hunger, feeling jittery and weak.
  • Serious allergic reaction: Stop using Trulicity and seek emergency medical care if you have symptoms of a serious allergic reaction. This may include swelling of your face, lips, tongue, or throat, difficulty breathing or swallowing, a severe rash or itching, feeling dizzy, fainting, or very rapid heartbeat.
  • Acute kidney injury: Because of nausea and possible vomiting, people with chronic kidney problems should be conscious of not allowing themselves to become dehydrated. This may cause their kidney problems to worsen.
  • Severe stomach problems: Trulicity may cause severe stomach and digestion issues. 
  • Vision changes: Let your medical provider know if you experience changes in your vision while taking Trulicity. 
  • Gallbladder problems: Some people experience gallbladder problems while taking Trulicity. Let your prescribing provider know right away if you experience pain in your upper stomach, fever, yellowing of your skin or eyes, or clay-colored stools. 

This is not a complete list of possible side effects. To learn more, talk with your pharmacists or prescribing medical providers. 

Risks and Warnings

Trulicity is contraindicated for people with a personal or family history of medullary thyroid carcinoma or people with multiple endocrine neoplasia syndrome type 2. People with serious hypersensitivity to dulaglutide or any of the other ingredients should not use Trulicity.

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Trulicity Alternatives

Several medications are available to help people with type 2 diabetes keep their blood sugar in check.

Other GLP-1 agonists include:

Biguanides help reduce the amount of sugar your liver releases and intestines absorb. These include:

Dipeptidyl peptidase-4 (DPP-4) inhibitors help the pancreas make more insulin. Examples include:

Sulfonylureas stimulate the pancreas to produce more insulin. Examples include:

Other options for managing type 2 diabetes include making lifestyle changes such as monitoring your sugar and carbohydrate intake, increasing your protein and fiber intake, and getting regular exercise. 

When to See a Medical Professional

If you have type 2 diabetes and are interested in learning more about Trulicity, contact your medical provider. Along with diet and exercise, Trulicity is an effective and easy-to-use option for blood sugar management. Your medical provider can help you decide if Trulicity is a good fit for you. 

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Frequently Asked Questions

How is Trulicity different from insulin?
Trulicity works in three ways. First, it triggers the pancreas to secrete more insulin when blood sugar levels rise. It also helps your stomach empty its contents slower, keeping you more full. And finally, it decreases the amount of sugar your liver releases into the blood.
What are the dangers of taking Trulicity?
Trulicity has several side effects, the most common one being nausea when starting to take the medication. That usually subsides after the first two weeks. People with type 1 diabetes, diabetic ketoacidosis, pancreatitis, or severe diseases of the digestive tract are not recommended to take Trulicity. Trulicity is also contraindicated for people with a personal or family history of medullary thyroid carcinoma or people with multiple endocrine neoplasia syndrome type 2. People with serious hypersensitivity to dulaglutide or any of the other ingredients in Trulicity should not use the medication.
What conditions does Trulicity treat?
Trulicity is a medication that helps people with type 2 diabetes manage their blood sugar along with diet and exercise. Trulicity is not recommended to treat people with type 1 diabetes.
How much does Trulicity cost?
Without insurance, Trulicity may cost $886.46 per month. However, with insurance coverage, you may pay as little as $25 per month.

K Health articles are all written and reviewed by MDs, PhDs, NPs, or PharmDs and are for informational purposes only. This information does not constitute and should not be relied on for professional medical advice. Always talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits of any treatment.

Zina Semenovskaya, MD

Dr. Semenovskaya specializes in emergency medicine, and received her medical degree from Weill Cornell Medical College. She is currently the medical director at Remote Emergency Medicine Consulting, LLC and splits her time working clinically as an emergency medicine attending in California and Alaska. She is the first of our doctors to be fluent in Russian.

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