GlucaGen is a brand-name prescription medication that’s FDA-approved for the following:

  • Treatment of severe low blood sugar in adults and children who use insulin for diabetes. If you have diabetes and take insulin for it, your blood sugar may drop dangerously low at times. This is called severe hypoglycemia, and GlucaGen helps treat the condition. Severe hypoglycemia is a medical emergency, so if you’ve had to use GlucaGen, call 911 or your local emergency number right away. It’s possible that your blood sugar may drop again.*
  • Use with certain diagnostic tests in adults. If your doctor needs to examine your digestive tract, some imaging exams require that your digestive muscles don’t move during the test. GlucaGen can help pause the movement of these muscles for a short time.†

* After a person (especially a child) takes a dose of GlucaGen, they should consume a source of “quick” carbohydrates. Examples include a non-diet soda, fruit juice, or another food high in sugar. (Diet soda or sugar-free candy won’t help low blood sugar.) Then they should eat long-acting carbohydrates such as crackers and cheese, or a meat or peanut butter sandwich.

† You shouldn’t take GlucaGen with medications called anticholinergics because this can increase your risk for side effects such as nausea. If you’ve fasted for the exam, your doctor may have you consume carbohydrates after the test to help boost your blood sugar.

GlucaGen drug class

GlucaGen contains the active drug glucagon. Glucagon belongs to a class of medications known as glucose-elevating drugs. (A medication class is a group of medications that work in a similar manner.)

GlucaGen vs. GlucaGen HypoKit

GlucaGen is available in one strength: 1 milligram (mg). The drug comes as a powder in a vial. When used for severe hypoglycemia, the vial is part of a kit called GlucaGen HypoKit. Both you and healthcare providers can use the HypoKit.

When GlucaGen is used for diagnostic tests, healthcare providers may use the vial alone or as part of a diagnostic kit that includes sterile water.

GlucaGen HypoKit

The GlucaGen HypoKit is used for severe hypoglycemia. It comes with a disposable syringe that’s prefilled with sterile water. This syringe is used to mix the GlucaGen powder to create a liquid solution.

The medication in the GlucaGen HypoKit can be injected in a few different ways:

  • Just underneath the skin (subcutaneous). With training, you or a caregiver can give subcutaneous injections at home.
  • Directly into a muscle (intramuscular). With training, you or a caregiver can give intramuscular injections at home.
  • Directly into a vein (intravenous). If you need intravenous (IV) injections, infusions, or both, a healthcare provider will give them to you in a hospital or clinic. An infusion is a type of injection in which the medication is slowly dripped into a vein over time.

You and your doctor can discuss which injection type is right for you.

GlucaGen

When GlucaGen is used for diagnostic tests, healthcare providers may use the vial alone or as part of a diagnostic kit that includes sterile water. GlucaGen is given as an injection into a muscle or vein by a healthcare provider.

Effectiveness

For more information on the effectiveness of GlucaGen, see the “GlucaGen uses” section below.

GlucaGen is available as a generic drug called glucagon. A generic drug is an exact copy of the active drug in a brand-name medication. The generic is considered to be as safe and effective as the original drug. Generics tend to cost less than brand-name drugs.

In some cases, the brand-name drug and the generic version may come in different forms and strengths.

GlucaGen contains one active drug ingredient: glucagon.

You may wonder how GlucaGen compares with other medications that are prescribed for similar uses. Here we look at how GlucaGen and glucagon are alike and different.

Ingredients

GlucaGen and the generic drug glucagon contain the same active drug ingredient: glucagon.

Uses

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved both GlucaGen and glucagon for the following uses:

  • Treatment of severe hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) in adults and children who use insulin for diabetes. Severe hypoglycemia is a medical emergency, so if you’ve had to use GlucaGen or glucagon, call 911 or your local emergency number right away. It’s possible that your blood sugar may drop again.*
  • use with certain diagnostic tests in adults to pause movement in the digestive tract

* After a person (especially a child) takes a dose of GlucaGen or glucagon, they should consume a source of “quick” carbohydrates. Examples include a non-diet soda, fruit juice, or another food high in sugar. (Diet soda or sugar-free candy won’t help low blood sugar.) Then they should eat long-acting carbohydrates such as crackers and cheese, or a meat or peanut butter sandwich.

† You shouldn’t take GlucaGen or glucagon with medications called anticholinergics because this can increase your risk for side effects such as nausea. If you’ve fasted for the exam, your doctor may have you consume carbohydrates after the test to help boost your blood sugar.

Drug forms and administration

Both GlucaGen and glucagon come as a powder. This powder is mixed with sterile water (supplied separately), and then the liquid solution is given as an injection.

GlucaGen and glucagon can be injected in a few different ways:

  • Just underneath the skin (subcutaneous). With training, you or a caregiver can give subcutaneous injections at home.
  • Directly into a muscle (intramuscular). With training, you or a caregiver can give intramuscular injections at home.
  • Directly into a vein (intravenous). If you need intravenous (IV) injections, infusions, or both, a healthcare provider will give them to you in a hospital or clinic. An infusion is a type of injection in which the medication is slowly dripped into a vein over time.

You and your doctor can discuss which injection is right for you.

GlucaGen and glucagon come in kits: the GlucaGen HypoKit and the glucagon emergency kit. Both kits come with a disposable syringe that’s prefilled with sterile water. This syringe is used to mix the powder to create a liquid solution.

GlucaGen and glucagon also come in a vial and diagnostic kit used by healthcare providers.

Side effects and risks

GlucaGen and glucagon both contain the active drug glucagon. Therefore, these medications can cause very similar side effects. Below are examples of these side effects.

Mild side effects

This list contains up to 10 of the most common mild side effects that can occur with GlucaGen and glucagon (when taken individually):

Serious side effects

This list contains examples of serious side effects that can occur with GlucaGen and glucagon (when taken individually):

  • allergic reaction
  • necrolytic migratory erythema* (a severe skin rash that can occur when either drug is given as an infusion)

* For more information, see the “Necrolytic migratory erythema” section below.

Effectiveness

These drugs haven’t been directly compared in clinical studies, but studies have found both GlucaGen and glucagon to be effective for treating severe hypoglycemia.

Costs

According to estimates on GoodRx.com, the GlucaGen HypoKit and glucagon kit generally cost about the same. The actual price you’ll pay for either drug depends on your insurance plan, your location, and the pharmacy you use.

GlucaGen is a brand-name drug. Glucagon is the generic form of GlucaGen. Brand-name medications usually cost more than generics.

The GlucaGen dosage your doctor prescribes will depend on several factors. These include:

  • the type and severity of the condition you’re using GlucaGen to treat
  • your weight
  • your age

The following information describes dosages that are commonly used or recommended. However, be sure to take the dosage your doctor prescribes for you. Your doctor will determine the best dosage to fit your needs.

Drug forms and strengths

GlucaGen is available in one strength: 1 mg. It comes as a powder in a vial. This powder is mixed with sterile water, and then the liquid solution is given as an injection.

GlucaGen can be injected in a few different ways:

  • Just underneath the skin (subcutaneous). With training, you or a caregiver can give subcutaneous injections at home.
  • Directly into a muscle (intramuscular). With training, you or a caregiver can give intramuscular injections at home.
  • Directly into a vein (intravenous). If you need intravenous (IV) injections, infusions, or both, a healthcare provider will give them to you in a hospital or clinic. An infusion is a type of injection in which the medication is slowly dripped into a vein over time.

You and your doctor can discuss which GlucaGen injection is right for you.

GlucaGen comes as part of a kit called the GlucaGen HypoKit that’s used for severe hypoglycemia (low blood sugar). The kit comes with a disposable syringe that’s prefilled with sterile water. This syringe is used to mix the GlucaGen powder to create a liquid solution.

Healthcare providers may also use the GlucaGen vial by itself or as part of a diagnostic kit that includes sterile water. These forms of GlucaGen are used for diagnostic tests.

Dosage for severe hypoglycemia

The GlucaGen dosage for treating severe hypoglycemia depends on your age and your weight.

Adults and children weighing more than 55 pounds (25 kilograms) will have a 1-milligram injection of GlucaGen (1 milliliter of the solution) as needed.

Children weighing less than 55 lb will have a 0.5-mg injection of GlucaGen (0.5 mL of the solution) as needed.

If a child is younger than age 6 years and their weight isn’t known, they will receive a 0.5-mg injection. Children ages 6 years and older whose weight isn’t known will receive a 1-mg injection.

Severe hypoglycemia is a medical emergency, so if you’ve had to use GlucaGen, call 911 or your local emergency number right away. It’s possible that your blood sugar may drop again. If needed, while waiting for medical help, you may repeat the dose using a new kit.

If your body doesn’t respond to the treatment, a healthcare provider will give you an IV injection of GlucaGen.

Dosage for use with certain diagnostic tests

The GlucaGen dosage for use with certain diagnostic tests depends on which organ your doctor needs to relax. The dosage also depends on how GlucaGen is injected.

Stomach, duodenum, or small intestine

If your doctor needs to relax your stomach, duodenum (first part of the small intestine), or small intestine, then you’ll be given an IV or intramuscular injection.

  • IV injection: 0.2 to 0.5 mg of GlucaGen (0.2 to 0.5 mL of the solution)
  • intramuscular injection: 1 mg of GlucaGen (1 mL of the solution)

Your doctor will choose the injection type based on what they think will work best for you.

Colon

If your doctor needs to relax your colon (large intestine) for the exam, then you’ll be given an IV or intramuscular injection.

  • IV injection: 0.5 to 0.75 mg of GlucaGen (0.5 to 0.75 mL of the solution)
  • intramuscular injection: 1 to 2 mg of GlucaGen (1 to 2 mL of the solution)

Your doctor will choose the injection type based on what they think will work best for you.

Pediatric dosage

For GlucaGen dosages for severe hypoglycemia in children, please see the “Dosage for severe hypoglycemia” section above.

It isn’t known if GlucaGen is safe to use as a diagnostic aid in children.

Will I need to use this drug long term?

GlucaGen isn’t meant to be used as a long-term treatment. The medication should be used only as needed to treat episodes of severe hypoglycemia or with certain diagnostic tests.

You should take GlucaGen according to your doctor’s or healthcare provider’s instructions.

GlucaGen comes as a powder in a vial. This powder is mixed with sterile water, and then the liquid solution is given as an injection.

GlucaGen can be injected in a few different ways:

  • Just underneath the skin (subcutaneous). With training, you or a caregiver can give subcutaneous injections at home.
  • Directly into a muscle (intramuscular). With training, you or a caregiver can give intramuscular injections at home.
  • Directly into a vein (intravenous). If you need intravenous (IV) injections, infusions, or both, a healthcare provider will give them to you in a hospital or clinic. An infusion is a type of injection in which the medication is slowly dripped into a vein over time.

You and your doctor can discuss which GlucaGen injection is right for you.

Common sites for injections are the upper arms, thighs, and buttocks. Your doctor will give you full instructions on where to inject your dose.

GlucaGen HypoKit

GlucaGen comes as part of a kit called the GlucaGen HypoKit. The kit comes with a disposable syringe that’s prefilled with sterile water. This syringe is used to mix the GlucaGen powder to create a liquid solution.

For step-by-step instructions on using the GlucaGen HypoKit, visit the drug website.

GlucaGen vial

Healthcare providers may also use the GlucaGen vial by itself or as part of a diagnostic kit that includes sterile water. These forms of GlucaGen are used for diagnostic tests.

When to take

Here’s some information on when to take GlucaGen for severe hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) and when the drug is used for certain diagnostic tests.

When to take GlucaGen for severe hypoglycemia

Since GlucaGen is used to treat severe hypoglycemia, you’ll use the drug only when your blood sugar becomes too low.

You and your doctor will determine when using GlucaGen is appropriate for you. For some people, this is when their blood sugar reaches a certain level that their doctor thinks is too low for them. For other people, they may give themselves GlucaGen based on symptoms of low blood sugar.

Symptoms of low blood sugar can include:

  • anxiety
  • feeling dizzy
  • feeling drowsy
  • feeling hungry
  • trouble concentrating
  • feeling irritable
  • sweating
  • tremors or unsteady movements

It’s important to act quickly when you need to take your dose. Low blood sugar that lasts too long can be harmful, and in severe cases, it can be fatal.

Severe hypoglycemia is a medical emergency, so if you’ve had to use GlucaGen, call 911 or your local emergency number right away. It’s possible that your blood sugar may drop again.

When you’ll receive GlucaGen for certain diagnostic tests

Your doctor or a healthcare provider may give you GlucaGen with certain diagnostic tests to help relax your digestive tract. For this use, you’ll receive a dose of GlucaGen just before or while your doctor performs the diagnostic test.

Taking GlucaGen with food

If you need to use GlucaGen for severely low blood sugar, you should consume a source of “quick” carbohydrates. Examples include a non-diet soda, fruit juice, or another food high in sugar. (Diet soda or sugar-free candy won’t help low blood sugar.) You should then eat long-acting carbohydrates such as crackers and cheese, or a meat or peanut butter sandwich.

If you receive GlucaGen before a diagnostic exam and were instructed to fast beforehand, then you should consume carbohydrates after the test, if possible. Your doctor or healthcare provider may provide these at the hospital or clinic.

You may be wondering why you need to consume carbohydrates shortly after using GlucaGen. The medication causes your liver to use its glycogen (stored carbohydrates) to make sugar and release it into your blood for energy. Consuming carbohydrates after taking GlucaGen helps replenish liver glycogen. This helps makes sure that your liver can keep working properly.

When you get GlucaGen from the pharmacy, the pharmacist will add an expiration date to the label on the vial, box, or carton. This date is typically 1 year from the date they dispensed the medication.

The expiration date helps guarantee that the medication is effective during this time. The current stance of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is to avoid using expired medications. If you have unused medication that has gone past the expiration date, talk to your pharmacist about whether you might still be able to use it.

Storage

How long a medication remains good can depend on many factors, including how and where you store the medication.

You should store GlucaGen powder that hasn’t been mixed with sterile water at room temperature, between 68°F and 77°F (20°C and 25°C). Keep GlucaGen in the original package away from light. Avoid storing this medication in areas where it could get damp or wet, such as bathrooms.

After mixing GlucaGen powder with sterile water, you should use the liquid solution right away. If you have any unused liquid solution, you should dispose of it.

Disposal

Right after you’ve used a syringe, dispose of it in an FDA-approved sharps disposal container. This helps prevent others, including children and pets, from taking the drug by accident or harming themselves with the needle. You can buy a sharps container online, or ask your doctor, pharmacist, or health insurance company where to get one.

This article provides several useful tips on medication disposal. You can also ask your pharmacist for information on how to dispose of your medication.

GlucaGen can cause mild or serious side effects. The following lists contain some of the key side effects that may occur while taking GlucaGen. These lists don’t include all possible side effects.

For more information on the possible side effects of GlucaGen, talk with your doctor or pharmacist. They can give you tips on how to deal with any side effects that may be bothersome.

Note: The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) tracks side effects of drugs it has approved. If you would like to report to the FDA a side effect you’ve had with GlucaGen, you can do so through MedWatch.

Mild side effects

Mild side effects of GlucaGen can include:*

If these side effects are bothersome or severe, talk with your doctor or pharmacist.

* This is a partial list of mild side effects from GlucaGen. To learn about other mild side effects, talk with your doctor or pharmacist, or visit GlucaGen’s prescribing information and patient information.

Serious side effects

Serious side effects from GlucaGen aren’t common, but they can occur. Call your doctor right away if you have serious side effects. Call 911 or your local emergency number if your symptoms feel life threatening or if you think you’re having a medical emergency.

Serious side effects, explained in more detail below in “Side effect details,” include:

  • allergic reaction
  • necrolytic migratory erythema* (a severe skin rash that can occur when the drug is given as an infusion)

* An infusion is an injection into a vein that’s given over a period of time.

Side effects in children

GlucaGen’s potential side effects in children are the same as the potential side effects in adults. For more about side effects in adults, please see the mild and serious side effects lists above and the “Side effect details” section below.

Side effect details

You may wonder how often certain side effects occur with this drug. Here’s some detail on several of the side effects this drug may cause.

Allergic reaction

As with most drugs, some people can have an allergic reaction after taking GlucaGen. It’s not known how often allergic reactions occur with GlucaGen.

Symptoms of a mild allergic reaction can include:

  • skin rash
  • itchiness
  • flushing (warmth and redness in your skin)

A more severe allergic reaction is rare but possible. Symptoms of a severe allergic reaction can include:

  • swelling under your skin, typically in your eyelids, lips, hands, or feet
  • swelling of your tongue, mouth, or throat
  • trouble breathing
  • low blood pressure

Call your doctor right away if you have a severe allergic reaction to GlucaGen. Call 911 or your local emergency number if your symptoms feel life threatening or if you think you’re having a medical emergency.

Nausea and vomiting

Nausea and vomiting are possible with GlucaGen use. These have been the most commonly reported side effects of GlucaGen since the drug was released onto the market.

But it’s important to note that only less than 10% of people who used the drug reported nausea or vomiting. And nausea and vomiting can be symptoms of low blood sugar. So it isn’t always possible to tell whether GlucaGen or low blood sugar is causing the nausea or vomiting.

If you experience nausea or vomiting while taking GlucaGen, talk with your doctor. They can work with you to develop a plan for dealing with these side effects.

Increased blood pressure and heart rate

GlucaGen may increase blood pressure or heart rate for a time. It’s not known how often these side effects occur with GlucaGen.

The active drug in GlucaGen (glucagon) can act on your heart to cause the rise in blood pressure or heart rate. But the medication doesn’t stay in your body for very long, so these effects are short-lived.

However, for people who have coronary artery disease or pheochromocytomas (tumors of the adrenal gland), this increase may be dangerous and require treatment. This is why people with pheochromocytomas shouldn’t use GlucaGen. (See the “GlucaGen precautions” section below to learn more.)

If you have an increase in blood pressure or heart rate while taking GlucaGen, talk with your doctor. They can work with you to develop a plan for dealing with these side effects.

And if you’ll be receiving GlucaGen for a diagnostic test, be sure to tell your doctor if you have any heart problems. They can check your heart closely during the procedure.

Necrolytic migratory erythema

In rare cases, GlucaGen has caused a severe skin rash known as necrolytic migratory erythema (NME). This side effect was reported after the drug was approved and released onto the market. NME occurred only in people who received GlucaGen as an infusion, which is an injection into your vein that’s given over a period of time.

Infusions are performed only in hospitals or clinics by healthcare providers. NME tends to go away once the GlucaGen infusion is stopped.

Symptoms of necrolytic migratory erythema

Symptoms of NME can include a skin rash with:

  • red, scaly plaques (patches of skin)
  • large, fluid-filled blisters
  • skin erosions (raw spots)

NME can affect the face, legs, groin (the part of your torso between your stomach and thighs), or perineum (the area between your anus and genitals). In some people, NME can be more widespread across the body.

If you’re prescribed GlucaGen for use at home, then you probably won’t develop NME. However, if you have symptoms of the condition, call your doctor. NME can be linked to certain tumors (masses of tissue), so your doctor will want to determine the cause and proper treatment.

Other drugs are available that can treat severe episodes of low blood sugar. Some may be a better fit for you than others. If you’re interested in finding an alternative to GlucaGen, talk with your doctor. They can tell you about other medications that may work well for you.

Note: Some of the drugs listed below are used off-label to treat these specific conditions. Off-label use is when a drug that’s approved to treat one condition is used to treat a different condition.

Alternatives for severe hypoglycemia

Examples of other drugs that may be used to treat severe hypoglycemia include:

Alternatives for use with certain diagnostic tests

Examples of other drugs that may be used with certain diagnostic tests include:

  • glucagon
  • diatrizoate meglumine/diatrizoate sodium (Gastrografin)

You may wonder how GlucaGen compares with other medications that are prescribed for similar uses. Here we look at how GlucaGen and Baqsimi are alike and different.

Ingredients

Both GlucaGen and Baqsimi contain the active drug ingredient glucagon.

Uses

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved GlucaGen to treat severe hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) in adults and children who use insulin for diabetes. Severe hypoglycemia is a medical emergency, so if you’ve had to use GlucaGen, call 911 or your local emergency number right away. It’s possible that your blood sugar may drop again.*

Baqsimi is FDA-approved to treat severe hypoglycemia in adults as well as children ages 4 years and older who have diabetes.*

GlucaGen is also approved for use in adults with certain diagnostic tests to pause movement in the digestive tract.

* After a person (especially a child) takes a dose of GlucaGen or Baqsimi, they should consume a source of “quick” carbohydrates. Examples include a non-diet soda, fruit juice, or another food high in sugar. (Diet soda or sugar-free candy won’t help low blood sugar.) Then they should eat long-acting carbohydrates such as crackers and cheese, or a meat or peanut butter sandwich.

† You shouldn’t take GlucaGen with medications called anticholinergics because this can increase your risk for side effects such as nausea. If you’ve fasted for the exam, your doctor may have you consume carbohydrates after the test to help boost your blood sugar.

Drug forms and administration

Here’s some information about the forms of GlucaGen and Baqsimi, and how they’re given.

GlucaGen forms

GlucaGen comes as a powder. This powder is mixed with sterile water, and then the liquid solution is given as an injection.

GlucaGen can be injected in a few different ways:

  • Just underneath the skin (subcutaneous). With training, you or a caregiver can give subcutaneous injections at home.
  • Directly into a muscle (intramuscular). With training, you or a caregiver can give intramuscular injections at home.
  • Directly into a vein (intravenous). If you need intravenous (IV) injections, infusions, or both, a healthcare provider will give them to you in a hospital or clinic. An infusion is a type of injection in which the medication is slowly dripped into a vein over time.

You and your doctor can discuss which GlucaGen injection is right for you.

For the treatment of severe hypoglycemia, GlucaGen comes as part of a kit called GlucaGen HypoKit. The kit comes with a disposable syringe that’s prefilled with sterile water. This syringe is used to mix the GlucaGen powder to create a liquid solution.

Baqsimi form

Baqsimi comes as a powder that you spray into your nostril using a nasal spray device.

Side effects and risks

GlucaGen and Baqsimi both contain glucagon. Therefore, these medications can cause very similar side effects, but some different ones as well. Below are examples of these side effects.

Mild side effects

These lists contain up to 10 of the most common mild side effects that can occur with GlucaGen, with Baqsimi, or with both drugs (when taken individually).

Serious side effects

These lists contain examples of serious side effects that can occur with GlucaGen, with Baqsimi, or with both drugs (when taken individually).

  • Can occur with GlucaGen:
    • necrolytic migratory erythema* (a severe skin rash that can occur when the drug is given as an infusion)
  • Can occur with Baqsimi:
    • few unique serious side effects
  • Can occur with both GlucaGen and Baqsimi:

* For more information, see the “Necrolytic migratory erythema” section above.

Effectiveness

The use of GlucaGen and Baqsimi in treating severe hypoglycemia hasn’t been directly compared in clinical studies, but studies have found both GlucaGen and Baqsimi to be effective for treating severe hypoglycemia.

Costs

According to estimates on GoodRx.com, costs of GlucaGen and Baqsimi will vary depending on how often you use the medication. The actual price you’ll pay for either drug also depends on your insurance plan, your location, and the pharmacy you use.

GlucaGen and Baqsimi are both brand-name drugs. GlucaGen comes in a generic form called glucagon. There are currently no generic forms of Baqsimi. Brand-name medications usually cost more than generics.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approves prescription drugs such as GlucaGen to treat certain conditions.

GlucaGen for severe hypoglycemia

GlucaGen is FDA-approved to treat severe hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) in adults and children who use insulin for diabetes. Severe hypoglycemia is a medical emergency, so if you’ve had to use GlucaGen, call 911 or your local emergency number right away. It’s possible that your blood sugar may drop again.

After a person (especially a child) takes a dose of GlucaGen, they should consume a source of “quick” carbohydrates. Examples include a non-diet soda, fruit juice, or another food high in sugar. (Diet soda or sugar-free candy won’t help low blood sugar.) Then they should eat long-acting carbohydrates such as crackers and cheese, or a meat or peanut butter sandwich.

Hypoglycemia explained

Hypoglycemia is a condition in which your blood sugar drops below normal levels. For most people, this is less than 70 mg per deciliter.

Symptoms of hypoglycemia can include:

  • feeling anxious or nervous
  • feeling irritable or impatient
  • shakiness or tremors
  • sweating
  • chills
  • clamminess
  • feeling lightheaded or dizzy
  • hunger

Severe hypoglycemia occurs when blood sugar levels are below normal and keep dropping. Your brain needs sugar (in the form of glucose) to function properly. If your blood sugar level becomes too low, your brain doesn’t get enough glucose. This can lead to more severe symptoms, such as trouble concentrating, slurred speech, and blurred vision. If left untreated, severe hypoglycemia can cause seizures, coma, and in some cases, death.

Although hypoglycemia can happen to anyone, people with diabetes are at increased risk. This is because the medications used to treat diabetes lower blood sugar. Certain diabetes drugs need to be scheduled around mealtimes. If this isn’t done properly, the medications can cause blood sugar to drop too low.

What GlucaGen does

GlucaGen treats hypoglycemia by stimulating your liver to make glucose. The glucose is then released into your bloodstream to raise your blood sugar level.

Effectiveness for severe hypoglycemia

The active drug in GlucaGen (glucagon) has been shown to be effective for treating episodes of severe hypoglycemia.

Glucagon, the active drug in GlucaGen, is well accepted as an effective treatment for severe hypoglycemia. The medication has been used to treat hypoglycemia since 1960. Both the American Diabetes Association and the Endocrine Society recommend glucagon as a first-line treatment for severe hypoglycemia.

GlucaGen for use with certain diagnostic tests

GlucaGen is FDA-approved to be used with certain diagnostic tests to pause movement in your digestive tract.

You shouldn’t take GlucaGen with medications called anticholinergics because this can increase your risk for side effects such as nausea. If you’ve fasted for the exam, your doctor may have you consume carbohydrates to help boost your blood sugar.

Why GlucaGen may be used before certain diagnostic tests

Normally, the muscles in your digestive tract tighten and relax to push food along. This is known as peristalsis. But some imaging exams require that your digestive muscles don’t move during the test. In fact, certain exams aren’t possible unless peristalsis is paused.

GlucaGen is given just before or during the imaging exam to stop peristalsis for a short period of time. This allows the healthcare provider to evaluate your digestive tract and make a proper diagnosis.

Effectiveness of GlucaGen when used with diagnostic tests

According to the American College of Radiology, glucagon (the active drug in GlucaGen) is used to relax the bowel in certain radiology tests.

Studies have shown that GlucaGen can pause peristalsis as quickly as 45 seconds after it’s given. This effect can last for as little as 9 minutes or for up to 32 minutes.

GlucaGen and children

GlucaGen is approved for treating episodes of severe hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) in children.

GlucaGen hasn’t been studied in children for use as an aid with certain diagnostic exams.

If you need to take a dose of GlucaGen, you shouldn’t drink alcohol afterward.

Keep in mind that if you drink alcohol and then have severe hypoglycemia (low blood sugar), GlucaGen may not work as well as usual.

Also, be aware that drinking alcohol can cause changes in your blood sugar levels, which can make it harder to manage your diabetes.

If you drink alcohol, talk with your doctor before you start to use GlucaGen. They can advise you on how to drink safely and manage your blood sugar.

GlucaGen can interact with several other medications.

Different interactions can cause different effects. For instance, some interactions can interfere with how well a drug works. Other interactions can increase the number of side effects or make them more severe.

GlucaGen and other medications

Below is a list of medications that can interact with GlucaGen. This list doesn’t contain all drugs that may interact with GlucaGen.

Before taking GlucaGen, talk with your doctor and pharmacist. Tell them about all prescription, over-the-counter, and other drugs you take. Also tell them about any vitamins, herbs, and supplements you use. Sharing this information can help you avoid potential interactions.

If you have questions about drug interactions that may affect you, ask your doctor or pharmacist.

GlucaGen and certain medications for high blood pressure and heart disease

Taking GlucaGen with certain medications called beta-blockers may cause a greater than normal increase in your blood pressure and heart rate.

The active drug in GlucaGen (glucagon) can act on your heart to cause the rise in blood pressure or heart rate. But the medication doesn’t stay in your body for very long, so these effects are short-lived. And the rises aren’t severe enough to cause harm in most people.

However, if you take a beta-blocker, your blood pressure and heart rate may increase even more when you take a dose of GlucaGen.

If you take a beta-blocker and are prescribed GlucaGen, talk with your doctor. They’ll decide if taking the two drugs together is right for you.

GlucaGen and indomethacin

Taking GlucaGen with the drug indomethacin may cause GlucaGen to not work as well or not work at all.

Indomethacin is a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) used to treat gout, arthritis, and pain, among other conditions.

It’s not exactly known what causes GlucaGen and indomethacin to interact. But if the two drugs are taken at the same time, indomethacin can keep GlucaGen from raising your blood sugar. The interaction may even cause hypoglycemia (low blood sugar).

If you take indomethacin and are prescribed GlucaGen, talk with your doctor. They may recommend a drug other than indomethacin.

GlucaGen and certain medications known as anticholinergics

Taking GlucaGen with medications known as anticholinergics can increase the risk for side effects in your digestive tract, such as nausea. For this reason, you should try to avoid using GlucaGen with an anticholinergic medication.

An example of an anticholinergic is diphenhydramine (Benadryl).

If you take an anticholinergic drug and are prescribed GlucaGen, talk with your doctor. They may recommend ways to help you deal with side effects from this interaction. Or your doctor may switch your anticholinergic drug for another medication.

GlucaGen and warfarin

The use of GlucaGen and a blood thinner called warfarin (Coumadin) together may make warfarin’s effects stronger. This can increase your risk for side effects such as bleeding.

If you take warfarin and are prescribed GlucaGen, your doctor will monitor your international normalized ratio (INR) like usual. An INR test shows if your blood is likely to clot or if you’re likely to bleed. If you have to use GlucaGen often, your doctor may want to test your INR more frequently and possibly adjust your warfarin dose.

If you have questions about using warfarin with GlucaGen, talk with your doctor.

GlucaGen and herbs and supplements

There aren’t any herbs or supplements that have been specifically reported to interact with GlucaGen. However, you should still check with your doctor or pharmacist before using any of these products while taking GlucaGen.

GlucaGen and foods

There aren’t any foods that have been specifically reported to interact with GlucaGen. If you have any questions about eating certain foods with GlucaGen, talk with your doctor.

As with all medications, the cost of GlucaGen can vary.

The actual price you’ll pay depends on your insurance plan, your location, and the pharmacy you use.

Before approving coverage for GlucaGen, your insurance company may require you to get prior authorization. This means that your doctor and insurance company will need to communicate about your prescription before the insurance company will cover the drug. The insurance company will review the prior authorization request and decide if the drug will be covered.

If you’re not sure if you’ll need to get prior authorization for GlucaGen, contact your insurance company.

Financial and insurance assistance

If you need financial support to pay for GlucaGen, help is available.

NeedyMeds lists programs that may help lower the cost of GlucaGen. For more information and to find out if you’re eligible for support, visit the NeedyMeds website.

Generic version

GlucaGen is available in a generic form called glucagon. A generic drug is an exact copy of the active drug in a brand-name medication. The generic is considered to be as safe and effective as the original drug. And generics tend to cost less than brand-name drugs. To find out how the cost of glucagon compares with the cost of GlucaGen, visit GoodRx.com.

If your doctor has prescribed GlucaGen and you’re interested in using glucagon instead, talk with your doctor. They may have a preference for one version or the other. You’ll also need to check your insurance plan, as it may only cover one or the other.

When you eat food, a type of sugar called glucose is broken down from the food and travels into your bloodstream. When your body realizes that food is in your digestive system, it releases a hormone called insulin. Insulin takes glucose from your bloodstream and helps to transport it into your body’s cells. Cells use glucose for energy.

People with diabetes usually don’t make enough insulin or have insulin resistance, which means their body doesn’t respond to insulin normally. This can cause hyperglycemia (a blood sugar level that’s too high). As a result, many people with diabetes need to use medications that lower their blood sugar.

It’s possible for blood sugar to become too low. This is known as hypoglycemia. The condition is more common in people with diabetes who take medication that lowers their blood sugar. But you don’t have to have diabetes to develop hypoglycemia. The condition can happen to anyone. For example, it can sometimes occur if you go too long without eating.

What GlucaGen does

GlucaGen contains the active drug glucagon. Glucagon is a hormone made by your pancreas. When your body detects that your blood sugar level is too low from using insulin to treat your diabetes, it sends signals for glucagon to be released.

Glucagon stimulates your liver to make new glucose to raise your blood sugar level. The liver does this by breaking down glycogen, which is a form of stored sugar in your body. This new glucose brings your blood sugar level back to normal.

GlucaGen is a copy of the glucagon hormone your body makes naturally. When you take your dose of GlucaGen, it stimulates your liver to break down glycogen to make new glucose. This raises your blood sugar back to normal levels.

How long does it take to work?

GlucaGen begins working as soon as you take your dose. In clinical trials, blood sugar levels began to rise within 10 minutes of the dose being given. GlucaGen has its maximum effect within 30 minutes you of taking a dose.

It’s not known if GlucaGen is safe to take during pregnancy. There isn’t enough reliable study information on the use of the drug in pregnant women.

In animal studies, pregnant animals were given doses 100 to 200 times higher than those used in people, and there wasn’t evidence of harm to the fetus. But animal studies don’t always predict what happens in people.

If you’re pregnant or are planning to become pregnant, talk with your doctor before using GlucaGen. They can review the pros and cons of the medication with you.

It’s not known if GlucaGen is safe to take during pregnancy. If you’re sexually active and you or your partner can become pregnant, talk with your doctor about your birth control needs while you’re using GlucaGen.

For more information about taking GlucaGen during pregnancy, see the “GlucaGen and pregnancy” section above.

It isn’t known is GlucaGen is safe to use while breastfeeding.

It’s not known if GlucaGen passes into human breast milk. And there haven’t been any clinical studies performed in breastfeeding mothers.

The body doesn’t absorb GlucaGen from the stomach. So if the medication passes into breast milk, it isn’t believed that this would affect a breastfed child. Also, it’s not known if GlucaGen even lasts long enough in the body to pass into breast milk.

If you’re breastfeeding or are planning to breastfeed, talk with your doctor before taking GlucaGen. They can review the pros and cons of the medication with you.

Here are answers to some frequently asked questions about GlucaGen.

Does GlucaGen help treat high blood sugar levels?

No, GlucaGen doesn’t treat hyperglycemia (high blood sugar levels). Medications like insulin are used to treat hyperglycemia.

GlucaGen is used to treat hypoglycemia (low blood sugar levels).

If you have high blood sugar, ask your doctor what treatments are right for you.

Why do I need to eat carbohydrates after I’ve used GlucaGen?

You should eat carbohydrates after you use GlucaGen to help prevent your blood sugar from dropping too low again.

GlucaGen causes your liver to use its glycogen (stored carbohydrates) to make sugar and release it into your blood for energy. Consuming carbohydrates after taking GlucaGen helps replenish liver glycogen. This helps makes sure that your liver can keep working properly.

You should also eat carbohydrates after using GlucaGen because the drug doesn’t last in the body for very long. GlucaGen works to raise your blood sugar for only about 60 to 90 minutes. So it’s possible that GlucaGen could first help boost low blood sugar, then after the drug wears off, the level could drop again.

Because eating also raises your blood sugar, eating after you use a dose of GlucaGen helps make sure your blood sugar reaches and stays at a healthy level.

Keep in mind that severe hypoglycemia is a medical emergency, so if you’ve had to use GlucaGen, call 911 or your local emergency number right away. It’s possible that your blood sugar may drop again.

If you have questions about consuming carbohydrates after using GlucaGen, talk with your doctor.

Is GlucaGen a steroid?

GlucaGen isn’t a steroid in the way you may think.

GlucaGen is an artificial copy of a hormone called glucagon that your body makes naturally. Glucagon is known as a steroid hormone, which refers to the chemical makeup of glucagon.

GlucaGen isn’t an anabolic steroid. Anabolic steroids are sometimes uses as medications, but they may also be used illegally by bodybuilders. This type of steroid is what many people think of when they hear the term “steroid.”

Is it safe to use GlucaGen more than once?

Yes, it’s OK to use GlucaGen more than once.

Severe hypoglycemia is a medical emergency, so after you take a dose of GlucaGen, you’ll need to call 911 or your local emergency number. This is because your blood sugar could drop again. While you’re waiting for help, you can take another dose of GlucaGen.

Keep in mind that even if you use more than one dose of GlucaGen, you should still consume carbohydrates after taking your dose. Eating after you use a dose of GlucaGen helps make sure your blood sugar reaches and stays at a healthy level.

If you have questions about using GlucaGen, talk with your doctor.

If my blood sugar level is lower than normal but I feel fine, should I take GlucaGen to keep it from dropping even more?

In general, no. You should only use GlucaGen in the case of an emergency. You shouldn’t use GlucaGen to help prevent your blood sugar level from dropping.

If your blood sugar level is lower than normal but you feel fine, try eating a small meal or snack. This is the recommended first step for treating low blood sugar.

However, your doctor may instruct you to take GlucaGen once your blood sugar drops below a certain level, whether or not you have symptoms of low blood sugar.

For more information on how to best manage your blood sugar level, talk with your doctor. They’ll work with you to determine when you should and shouldn’t use GlucaGen.

Before taking GlucaGen, talk with your doctor about your health history. GlucaGen may not be right for you if you have certain medical conditions or other factors affecting your health. These include:

  • Certain tumors. You shouldn’t use GlucaGen if you have a pheochromocytoma (a tumor on the adrenal glands) or a pancreas tumor known as an insulinoma. Using GlucaGen when you have either of these tumors can increase your risk for side effects from the drug. (To learn about side effects, see the “GlucaGen side effects” section above.) For more information, talk with your doctor.
  • Allergic reaction. If you’ve had an allergic reaction to GlucaGen or any of its ingredients (including lactose), you shouldn’t take GlucaGen. Ask your doctor what other medications are better options for you.
  • Pregnancy. It isn’t known for certain if GlucaGen is safe to take while pregnant. For more information, please see the “GlucaGen and pregnancy” section above.
  • Breastfeeding. It isn’t known is GlucaGen is safe to use while breastfeeding. For more information, please see the “GlucaGen and breastfeeding” section above.

Note: For more information about the potential negative effects of GlucaGen, see the “GlucaGen side effects” section above.

Using more than the recommended dosage of GlucaGen can lead to serious side effects. Do not use more GlucaGen than your doctor recommends.

Overdose symptoms

Symptoms of an overdose can include:

What to do in case of overdose

If you think you’ve taken too much of this drug, call your doctor. You can also call the American Association of Poison Control Centers at 800-222-1222 or use their online tool. But if your symptoms are severe, call 911 or your local emergency number, or go to the nearest emergency room right away.

The following information is provided for clinicians and other healthcare professionals.

Indications

GlucaGen is indicated for treating severe hypoglycemia in patients with diabetes who are treated with insulin.

GlucaGen is also indicated as a diagnostic aid for temporary inhibition of gastrointestinal (GI) tract movement during radiologic examinations. For this purpose, GlucaGen should not be administered in combination with anticholinergic medications.

Administration

GlucaGen can be administered by intramuscular, subcutaneous, or intravenous (IV) injection or infusion.

Mechanism of action

GlucaGen is a copy of the hormone glucagon. Glucagon stimulates gluconeogenesis by inducing the breakdown of hepatic glycogen. Glucose is then released from the liver into the bloodstream.

Pharmacokinetics and metabolism

Following administration, blood glucose levels begin to rise within 10 minutes. Peak concentrations occur in approximately 30 minutes, with a median Tmax of 12.5 minutes. The hyperglycemic effect of GlucaGen following intramuscular or IV injection is sustained for 60 to 90 minutes.

For use as a diagnostic aid: Following IV injection, smooth muscle relaxation within the GI tract occurs within 45 seconds, and lasts for 9 to 25 minutes, depending on the dose. If administered intramuscularly, smooth muscle relaxation occurs within 4 to 10 minutes, and lasts from 12 to 32 minutes, depending on the dose used.

Contraindications

GlucaGen should not be used in patients with known pheochromocytoma or insulinoma. GlucaGen is also contraindicated in anyone with hypersensitivity to glucagon, lactose, or any other component of the drug product.

Storage

Prior to reconstitution, store GlucaGen powder at room temperature, between 68°F to 77°F (20°C to 25°C) in the original package away from light. Do not freeze GlucaGen powder.

After reconstitution, GlucaGen should be used immediately. Dispose of any unused medication.

Disclaimer: Medical News Today has made every effort to make certain that all information is factually correct, comprehensive, and up to date. However, this article should not be used as a substitute for the knowledge and expertise of a licensed healthcare professional. You should always consult your doctor or other healthcare professional before taking any medication. The drug information contained herein is subject to change and is not intended to cover all possible uses, directions, precautions, warnings, drug interactions, allergic reactions, or adverse effects. The absence of warnings or other information for a given drug does not indicate that the drug or drug combination is safe, effective, or appropriate for all patients or all specific uses.