Saxenda for Weight Loss: Everything You Need to Know

Discover Saxenda for weight loss, benefits, side effects, and more. Get answers to FAQs on Saxenda and if it's right for you in our detailed guide.

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Science-based and reviewed

Published:
May 20, 2024
October 30, 2023
— Updated:
October 31, 2023

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Saxenda is a medication originally developed for diabetes management by the manufacturer Novo Nordisk. Recently, it has gained popularity for its effectiveness as a weight loss drug. Recently approved for chronic weight management by the FDA, Saxenda has become a sought-after solution for individuals seeking to shed pounds and improve their overall health.

In this article, we’ll provide you with all you need to know about Saxenda – exploring what it is, how it works, the recommended usage, potential side effects, and the overall safety and effectiveness of this medication for weight loss. 

Whether you're considering Saxenda as a part of your weight loss strategy or simply seeking to understand more about its role in weight management, this article will equip you with the knowledge you need to make informed decisions about your health and well-being. 

What is Saxenda?

Saxenda is a prescription medication that was first used as a diabetes management medication. It is a brand name for liraglutide, a GLP-1 receptor agonist and synthetic analog of the naturally occurring hormone GLP-1 (glucagon-like peptide-1). Other GLP-1 agonists include Ozempic and Wegovy. 

Saxenda was first developed as a treatment for type 2 diabetes under the name Victoza. It helps regulate blood sugar levels by mimicking the action of GLP-1. The small intestine releases this hormone in response to food intake and stimulates insulin secretion, which lowers blood glucose levels. It also suppresses the glucagon secretion, which tends to raise blood sugar.

Patients using Victoza for diabetes treatment began to report another beneficial side effect: weight loss. This unexpected discovery prompted further research, and Saxenda, with its higher dose of liraglutide, was developed and approved specifically for weight loss.1

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How Does Saxenda Work for Weight Loss?

Saxenda has several mechanisms that support weight loss. Understanding its mechanism of action is key to appreciating its effectiveness in helping individuals shed unwanted pounds.

GLP-1 and Saxenda have an appetite-suppressing effect. They act on the brain to reduce feelings of hunger, leading to decreased food intake. This reduction in calorie consumption results in weight loss.

Saxenda also slows digestion by delaying stomach emptying, which has a dual benefit. It slows the absorption of glucose from food, helping to keep blood sugar levels steady, and it contributes to a sense of fullness, further reducing the desire to eat.

Some individuals using Saxenda have reported changes in food preferences, particularly a decreased desire for high-calorie and high-fat foods.

Saxenda has demonstrated notable effectiveness in promoting weight loss as part of a comprehensive body weight management program. Clinical trials have shown that, on average, individuals using Saxenda can achieve significant weight loss compared to those receiving a placebo.2,3

Saxenda is approved for use in adults with a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or greater or for those with a BMI of 27 or greater who have at least one weight-related medical condition, such as hypertension (high blood pressure), type 2 diabetes, or high cholesterol. Its primary purpose is to promote weight loss when used in conjunction with lifestyle changes, including a reduced-calorie diet and increased physical activity.4

The amount of weight lost can vary from person to person. The effectiveness of Saxenda is often influenced by factors such as adherence to a reduced-calorie diet and increased physical activity, as well as metabolic health and lifestyle. However, for many, Saxenda has proven to be a valuable tool in achieving and maintaining a healthier weight.

How to Use Saxenda

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Saxenda is a prescription medication, and its usage should be carefully supervised by a healthcare provider. Follow the prescribed instructions for the safe and effective use of the medication. 

Dosage and Starting Saxenda

Saxenda is typically administered by subcutaneous injection, which means it is injected under the skin. It is important to follow your healthcare provider's specific dosing instructions.

The recommended starting dose of Saxenda for weight management is usually 0.6 mg daily. This allows the body to gradually adapt to the medication and minimizes the risk of side effects.

Over several days, the dose is usually increased in small increments, typically by 0.6 mg per week, until the maintenance dose is reached.4

Maintenance Dose

The maintenance dose of Saxenda is usually 3 mg per day. This is the dose at which the medication is intended to be taken long-term for weight management.

Injection Site and Technique

Saxenda is administered by a subcutaneous injection pen, commonly into the abdomen, thigh, or upper arm.

To avoid potential injection site reactions, it’s a good idea to vary the injection site with each dose. Proper injection technique and hygiene are essential. Your healthcare provider can guide the correct administration.

Diet and Exercise

Saxenda is most effective when used in conjunction with a reduced-calorie diet and increased physical activity. Your healthcare provider or a registered dietitian can help you create an appropriate meal plan. Regular exercise, as recommended by your healthcare provider, complements the weight loss efforts.

Monitoring

It’s important to have regular follow-up appointments with your healthcare provider while using Saxenda. They will monitor your progress, adjust the dosage when needed, and address any concerns or questions you may have.

It's important to strictly adhere to your healthcare provider's guidance regarding the use of Saxenda. Taking the medication as directed, along with a balanced diet and exercise, can maximize its effectiveness in achieving and maintaining a healthier weight. 

Any questions or concerns about Saxenda usage should be discussed with your healthcare provider to ensure safe and successful weight management.

Saxenda Side Effects

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Like any medication, Saxenda can cause both mild and severe side effects. Common side effects of Saxenda include:

Saxenda Mild Side Effects

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Constipation
  • Headache
  • Dizziness
  • Fatigue
  • Abdominal pain
  • Decreased appetite
  • Upset stomach
  • Injection site reactions (redness, pain, or swelling)

Saxenda Severe Side Effects

  • Signs of an allergic reaction, such as itching, rash, or swelling of the face, lips, or tongue
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Severe abdominal pain or pancreatitis symptoms (persistent severe stomach pain that may radiate to the back, nausea, vomiting)
  • Thyroid nodules or tumors, which may present as neck lumps or difficulty swallowing and may lead to thyroid cancer
  • Signs of low blood sugar (hypoglycemia), including shakiness, confusion, sweating, or rapid heartbeat
  • Self-harm or suicidal thoughts

When to Visit a Doctor

You should visit your doctor if you experience any unusual or severe symptoms while using Saxenda. You should also have regular follow-up appointments with your healthcare provider to monitor your response to the medication, make any necessary adjustments to your treatment plan, and address any side effects or concerns.

Your doctor can help ensure your safety while using Saxenda. Open communication with your healthcare team is vital for a positive and effective Saxenda experience.

Who Shouldn't Take Saxenda

While Saxenda can be an effective tool for weight management, some people shouldn’t use Saxenda. Discuss these factors with your healthcare provider to ensure the safe and appropriate use of Saxenda. 

Individuals with a known allergy to liraglutide (the active ingredient in Saxenda) or any of its components should not use this medication. Allergic reactions can be severe and life-threatening.

If you have a personal or family history of medullary thyroid carcinoma (MTC) or multiple endocrine neoplasia syndrome type 2 (MEN 2), you should exercise caution when considering Saxenda. These conditions are associated with an increased risk of thyroid tumors, and the potential risks and benefits of Saxenda should be discussed with your healthcare provider.

People with a history of pancreatitis (inflammation of the pancreas) should use Saxenda with caution. This condition may be exacerbated by the medication, and the potential risks and benefits should be carefully evaluated.

Saxenda can increase the risk of gallbladder problems, including gallstones. If you have a history of gallbladder disease, this should be discussed with your healthcare provider, and potential preventive measures may be considered.

It's important to share with your doctor all medications, supplements, and herbal products you are taking. Some drugs, especially other weight loss medications or insulin, may interact with Saxenda. Adjustments to your treatment plan may be necessary to avoid potential adverse effects.

If you are pregnant, planning to become pregnant, or breastfeeding, you should discuss the potential risks and benefits of Saxenda with your healthcare provider. The safety of Saxenda during pregnancy or breastfeeding, as well as the impact on breast milk, is unknown. 

Have an open and thorough discussion with your healthcare provider before starting Saxenda to assess whether it is a suitable option for you.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. How long does it take to work for weight loss?

Some people may see weight loss within a few weeks; others may require several months of consistent use to achieve significant results.

2. How much does Saxenda cost?

The cost of Saxenda can vary depending on your location, insurance coverage, and the pharmacy or provider you use. Without insurance, Saxenda can be expensive. Check with your insurance provider and compare prices at different pharmacies to find the most cost-effective option for you.

3. Does insurance cover it?

Some insurance plans may cover Saxenda, especially if prescribed for weight-related health conditions. Check with your insurance provider to understand your coverage requirements, such as prior authorization or documentation from your healthcare provider.

4. How should I store my medication?

Saxenda should be stored in the refrigerator at a temperature between 36°F to 46°F (2°C to 8°C). It should not be frozen or exposed to direct sunlight. Saxenda pens currently in use can be kept at room temperature (up to 77°F or 25°C) for up to 30 days. After 30 days, they should be discarded.

5. Can I stop taking Saxenda once I've reached my weight loss goal?

Your healthcare provider will guide you on when it's appropriate to discontinue Saxenda. It's not uncommon for individuals to continue treatment even after reaching their weight loss goal to help maintain the new weight. 

Learn More About Diabetes and Weight Loss with Signos’ Expert Advice

Along with proper diet, exercise, and other healthy lifestyle choices, medications can play a significant role in managing diabetes, obesity, and blood sugar health. 

Signos’ CGM can help you live well with diabetes, allowing you to track blood sugar levels and see your body's reactions to certain foods.

You can learn more about nutrition and healthy habits on the Signos blog. To find out if Signos is a good fit for you, take this quick quiz.

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References

  1. Alruwaili, H., Dehestani, B., & le Roux, C. W. (2021). Clinical Impact of Liraglutide as a Treatment of Obesity. Clinical pharmacology: advances and applications, 13, 53–60. https://doi.org/10.2147/CPAA.S276085
  2. Kelly, A. S., Auerbach, P., Barrientos-Perez, M., Gies, I., Hale, P. M., Marcus, C., Mastrandrea, L. D., Prabhu, N., Arslanian, S., & NN8022-4180 Trial Investigators (2020). A Randomized, Controlled Trial of Liraglutide for Adolescents with Obesity. The New England journal of medicine, 382(22), 2117–2128. https://doi.org/10.1056/NEJMoa1916038
  3. Mehta, A., Marso, S. P., & Neeland, I. J. (2017). Liraglutide for weight management: a critical review of the evidence. Obesity science & practice, 3(1), 3–14. https://doi.org/10.1002/osp4.84
  4. Novo Medlink. (n.d.). Saxenda dosing. https://www.novomedlink.com/obesity/products/treatments/saxenda/dosing-administration/saxenda-dosing.html

About the author

Victoria Whittington earned her Bachelor of Science in Food and Nutrition from the University of Alabama and has over 10 years of experience in the health and fitness industry.

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