Saxenda vs Wegovy: What Is The Difference?

Explore the mechanisms behind two popular FDA-approved medications for weight loss – comparing benefits, efficacy, side effects, and which medication is better for you.

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by
Sarah Zimmer, PT, DPT
— Signos
PT, DPT
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Updated by

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Science-based and reviewed

Published:
January 29, 2024
November 22, 2023
— Updated:

Table of Contents

More and more individuals - adults and children - are struggling with excessive weight gain and the chronic health conditions that come along with being obese. For some, this is due to diseases like type II diabetes, hormonal changes, poor sleep quality, or genetics. In the relentless pursuit of effective weight loss solutions, pharmaceutical advancements have introduced innovative medications to assist individuals in their journey toward losing significant weight and finding a healthier lifestyle. Some of the more common medications you may have heard of already include Ozempic, Contrave, or Qsymia (a type of Phentermine). 

Current research shows showing the most effective medications for targeting significant weight loss are GLP-1 agonists, such as Saxenda and Wegovy.1 Novo Nordisk manufactures both Saxenda and Wegovy, and they assist in weight loss by targeting your appetite control centers and insulin levels to lower blood sugar levels. They also may be prescribed to individuals who have a weight-related health condition, such as type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, or high cholesterol. However, each works at different dosing levels with varying side effects. So which one is better? 

This blog will delve into the intricate details of these medications, discuss the similarities in their pursuit of weight loss, and highlight the differences in how they work, their benefits, and potential side effects.

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What is Saxenda?

Saxenda, a brand name for Liraglutide, is just one of the many glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1) receptor agonist classes of medications. Originally developed for the treatment of type 2 diabetes, Saxenda found its secondary purpose as an effective weight loss aid for those struggling with obesity (those with a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or higher).5 The medication is administered daily subcutaneously, typically in the abdomen, thigh, or upper arm. It has been shown to be safe and effective for adults and adolescents 12 to 17 years old.2

Saxenda operates by mimicking the action of GLP-1, a hormone naturally produced in the intestines. GLP-1 helps in the production of insulin from the pancreas. After you eat, GLP-1 promotes insulin release, inhibits glucagon (sugar) production, and slows down the emptying of your stomach (appetite suppressing). Therefore, by binding to GLP-1 receptors in the brain, Saxenda induces feelings of fullness, reducing food intake and, consequently, weight loss. In addition to helping you shed pounds, Saxenda has been shown to help improve metabolic markers such as blood pressure, blood sugar levels, and cholesterol levels.2

Saxenda is primarily prescribed to aid weight loss in individuals who are obese or overweight and have weight-related health conditions.5 It is intended for use as part of a comprehensive weight management program, emphasizing lifestyle modifications first and foremost with the assistance of pharmacological intervention.

What is Wegovy?

Wegovy, the brand name for Semaglutide, is a prescription medication classified as a glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1) receptor agonist, just like Saxenda. You may be familiar with Ozempic, another brand name for Semaglutide, which has been used recently to target weight loss and type II diabetes. Designed as a once-weekly injectable instead of daily, Wegovy is primarily used to assist in weight management. However, it also helps improve most individuals' blood sugar levels and lipid profiles. 

Wegovy has a similar course of action to Saxenda, as it binds to GLP-1 receptors in the brain, promoting a sense of fullness and reducing overall food intake. However, Wegovy’s sustained-release medication offers the convenience of a once-weekly injection, potentially enhancing adherence to the prescribed weight loss plan. It has demonstrated significant efficacy in clinical trials, often leading to substantial weight loss, and is generally recommended for individuals who are obese or overweight with weight-related health conditions.6,7 

Like Saxenda, Wegovy is most effective when incorporated into a holistic weight management program that includes dietary changes and increased physical activity. Eating high-fiber breakfasts, such as oatmeal, engaging in more resistance training, and reducing stress levels are all healthy lifestyle choices that can complement the effectiveness of drugs like Wegovy or Saxenda for weight loss.

Saxenda vs Wegovy: Which is Better For Weight Loss?

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Saxenda and Wegovy, while belonging to the glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1) receptor agonist class, contain different active ingredients: Liraglutide and Semaglutide, respectively. These distinct formulations contribute to their pharmacokinetics, dosages, and overall efficacy variations. Here is a table to help compare these two powerful weight-loss medications:

Saxenda Wegovy
Dosage Daily Injection Weekly Injection
Efficacy 5-8% weight loss3 10-16% weight loss6
Length of Potency 12-15 hours 5-6 days
Cost $1300/month $1300/month

Which is better to use for achieving your weight loss goals? Clinical trials have suggested that Wegovy may exhibit slightly greater effectiveness in promoting weight loss compared to Saxenda.7 Wegovy's once-weekly dosing schedule, along with its unique formulation of Semaglutide, has demonstrated robust results in reducing body weight. 

However, individual responses can vary, and the choice between the two medications should consider factors such as patient preferences, lifestyle considerations, and healthcare professionals' guidance. Ultimately, the decision should be made on a case-by-case basis, considering the specific needs and circumstances of the individual seeking weight management assistance.

Wegovy vs. Saxenda: Side Effects

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Due to their similar mechanisms of action, Wegovy and Saxenda share some common side effects. However, it's important to note that individual responses to medications can vary, and not everyone will experience these side effects. Check out the list of possible side effects of Wegovy and Saxenda below, and consult with a healthcare professional for personalized advice if you are concerned about any of these potential side effects before use.

  • Gastrointestinal Distress: One of the most common side effects for both Wegovy and Saxenda is gastrointestinal discomfort. Users may experience nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, constipation, or abdominal pain. These symptoms often improve over time as the body adjusts to the medication, but can also be mitigated by maintaining proper hydration levels and eating smaller meals throughout the day.4,7,9 However, it is important to discuss ongoing GI-side effects with a healthcare professional as these may be an indication of more serious issues such as acute pancreatitis, gallbladder disease, or acute kidney injuries.
  • Increased Heart Rate: Saxenda may lead to a slightly increased heart rate in some individuals. While this is usually mild, individuals with pre-existing cardiovascular conditions should consult their healthcare providers.9
  • Fatigue: Users may experience fatigue or tiredness as a side effect of Saxenda, which may or may not be a sign of hypoglycemia. Since GLP-1 type drugs focus on lowering blood sugar, it is possible that you dip into hypoglycemia on a particular dosage or time frame. This symptom may improve as the body adjusts to the medication, but make sure to tell your doctor, as hypoglycemia can be a serious health issue.9,12
  • Headaches and Dizziness: Some users of Saxenda may experience headaches and dizziness, which are generally mild and tend to diminish over time. It's advisable for individuals taking this medication to be cautious when standing up to prevent dizziness.9
  • Thyroid Function Changes: Wegovy and Saxenda have been associated with alterations in thyroid function, potentially leading to changes in thyroid hormone levels or the development of thyroid cancer. Individuals with pre-existing thyroid conditions may require monitoring and adjustments to their thyroid medication.9

It's crucial for individuals considering or using Wegovy or Saxenda to be aware of these potential side effects. A study performed in 2023 in the Cureus Journal of Medical Science compared the efficacy and side effects of various anti-obesity medications, with Saxenda and Wegoy as the stars once again in their effectiveness towards significant weight loss. However, the researchers found the most common and potentially serious side effect of the GLP-1 agonist injections was gastrointestinal distress.10 

If you are experiencing any nausea, abdominal pain, constipation, diarrhea, or other symptoms of GI distress, then be sure to contact your healthcare provider promptly. Only a healthcare professional can provide comprehensive advice based on your medical history and specific health needs. That said, working with a professional who can provide safe dosages while combining them with healthy lifestyle choices is the best way to mitigate serious side effects and reach optimal weight loss goals while using Saxenda and Wegovy.11 

Can You Switch From Saxenda to Wegovy?

Switching from Saxenda to Wegovy, or vice versa, is a decision that should be made in consultation with a healthcare professional. Both medications work similarly to lower blood sugar and suppress appetite for weight loss; however, they differ in dosage frequency, formulation, and individual response.

Before considering a switch, discussing the reasons for the switch with your healthcare provider is essential. They can evaluate factors such as your medical history, response to the current medication, and any specific considerations related to your health goals. If one medication is not producing the desired results or if you are experiencing side effects, your healthcare provider may recommend transitioning to the other medication.

It's crucial to note that both Saxenda and Wegovy are prescription medications, and any changes in medication should be conducted under the guidance of a healthcare professional. They can provide personalized advice, monitor your progress, and adjust as needed to optimize your weight loss journey while minimizing potential side effects.

Learn More About The Science of Weight Loss and Nutrition with Signos

If you have more questions on improving your health, fitness, and nutrition, seek the expert advice of the Signos continuous glucose monitor and Signos team. A continuous glucose monitor (CGM) can give you the insights to make smarter nutrition and exercise choices. When you become a Signos member, you’ll get 24/7 access to the Signos app, plus a continuous glucose monitor (CGM). 

Whether you want to lose weight, discover metabolic insights, improve health, or accelerate performance, Signos combines the power of AI, science-backed tools, and behavior modification prompts to keep you on track. Pick your top health goal, and Signos calculates the recommended glucose zone to help you meet it. 

Any time your glucose spikes above the top of your optimal zone, you’ll get a spike alert with advice on how to lower your glucose. 

Current research supports the effectiveness of using continuous glucose monitoring systems to target weight loss and other health-related goals. For instance, one study published in Clinical Diabetes found that 87% of CGM users were able to modify their food choices based on the data collected from the CGM and the recommendations provided. In addition, 47% of CGM users said their physical activity levels increased as they were more likely to go for a walk or exercise if they saw a rise in their blood sugar. The study found overall satisfaction with the use of CGMs, as 90% of participants felt that CGM use contributed to a healthier lifestyle.13

Signos offers a variety of plans to help you get started on your wellness journey while maintaining quality of care without breaking your bank account. The time to invest in your health is now! Check out more articles and information about CGMs, weight-loss strategies, and exercise tips for a well-rounded, healthy lifestyle approach. Or start now by taking this quiz to see if using Signos could help you on your weight loss and healthy lifestyle journey.

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References

  1. Ard, J., Fitch, A., Fruh, S., & Herman, L. (2021). Weight Loss and Maintenance Related to the Mechanism of Action of Glucagon-Like Peptide 1 Receptor Agonists. Advances in therapy, 38(6), 2821–2839. https://doi.org/10.1007/s12325-021-01710-0
  2. Whitten, J. S. (2016). Liraglutide (Saxenda) for weight loss. American family physician, 94(2), 161-166.
  3. Davies, M. J., Bergenstal, R., Bode, B., Kushner, R. F., Lewin, A., Skjøth, T. V., Andreasen, A. H., Jensen, C. B., DeFronzo, R. A., & NN8022-1922 Study Group (2015). Efficacy of Liraglutide for Weight Loss Among Patients With Type 2 Diabetes: The SCALE Diabetes Randomized Clinical Trial. JAMA, 314(7), 687–699. https://doi.org/10.1001/jama.2015.9676
  4. Lean, M. E., Carraro, R., Finer, N., Hartvig, H., Lindegaard, M. L., Rössner, S., Van Gaal, L., Astrup, A., & NN8022-1807 Investigators (2014). Tolerability of nausea and vomiting and associations with weight loss in a randomized trial of liraglutide in obese, non-diabetic adults. International journal of obesity (2005), 38(5), 689–697. https://doi.org/10.1038/ijo.2013.149
  5. Paul MacDaragh Ryan, Jill K Hamilton. (2022). What do I need to know about liraglutide (Saxenda), the glucagon-like peptide 1 receptor agonist for weight management in children with obesity? Paediatrics & Child Health, 27(4); 201–202. https://doi.org/10.1093/pch/pxac026
  6. Singh, G., Krauthamer, M., & Bjalme-Evans, M. (2022). Wegovy (semaglutide): a new weight loss drug for chronic weight management. Journal of Investigative Medicine, 70(1), 5-13.
  7. Elliott, W., & Chan, J. (2021). Semaglutide Injection (Wegovy). Internal Medicine Alert, 43(14).
  8. Phillips, A., & Clements, J. N. (2022). Clinical review of subcutaneous semaglutide for obesity. Journal of clinical pharmacy and therapeutics, 47(2), 184-193.
  9. Liu, L., Chen, J., Wang, L., Chen, C., & Chen, L. (2022). Association between different GLP-1 receptor agonists and gastrointestinal adverse reactions: A real-world disproportionality study based on FDA adverse event reporting system database. Frontiers in Endocrinology, 13, 1043789.
  10. Brandfon, S., Eylon, A., Khanna, D., & Parmar, M. S. (2023). Advances in Anti-obesity Pharmacotherapy: Current Treatments, Emerging Therapies, and Challenges. Cureus, 15(10).
  11. Yates, M., Supple, M., & Maccia, M. (2023). Impact of a Pharmacist-Led Weight Management Service in a Cardiology Clinic. Journal of the American Pharmacists Association.
  12. Wojtara, M., Mazumder, A., Syeda, Y., & Mozgała, N. (2023). Glucagon-Like Peptide-1 Receptor Agonists for Chronic Weight Management. Advances in Medicine, 2023.
  13. Kieu, A., King, J., Govender, R. D., & Östlundh, L. (2023). The Benefits of Utilizing Continuous Glucose Monitoring of Diabetes Mellitus in Primary Care: A Systematic Review. Journal of diabetes science and technology, 17(3), 762–774. https://doi.org/10.1177/19322968211070855
  14. Lingvay, I., Hansen, T., Macura, S., Marre, M., Nauck, M. A., De La Rosa, R., ... & Wilding, J. (2020). Superior weight loss with once-weekly semaglutide versus other glucagon-like peptide-1 receptor agonists is independent of gastrointestinal adverse events. BMJ Open Diabetes Research and Care, 8(2), e001706.
  15. Le Roux, C.W., Astrup, A., Fujioka, K., Greenway, F., Lau, D.C., Van Gaal, L., Ortiz, R.V., Wilding, J.P., Skjøth, T.V., Manning, L.S. and Pi-Sunyer, X. (2017).  3 years of liraglutide versus placebo for type 2 diabetes risk reduction and weight management in individuals with prediabetes: a randomized, double-blind trial. Lancet, 389(10077):1399-1409. 

About the author

Sarah is a Doctor of Physical Therapy, graduating from the University of Wisconsin Madison in 2017.

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