WEIGHT MANAGEMENT ∙ 2 minutes read

Everything you need to know about Saxenda weight loss medication

By Kirsty Mason | Medically reviewed by Rupal Joshi

Obesity has been a problem for decades - and it’s only getting worse. General advice to tackle the issue is to diet and exercise. But sustainable weight loss isn’t always that simple.

The causes of obesity are complex and usually, a combination of biological, psychological, and environmental factors have a part to play. This can make losing weight extremely challenging.

To combat the issue, treatments such as Saxenda have been introduced to the weight loss industry.

The FDA approved the treatment for weight loss in 2014 after successful clinical trials. But who’s it for? And does it really work? Here’s everything you need to know about Saxenda for weight loss...

What is Saxenda?

Saxenda is an injectable pen solution. It’s easily self-administered into the fatty tissue in your stomach, leg, or upper arm. The medication is prescription only and should be taken daily. 

The active ingredient works by reducing hunger which leads to less food intake and cravings. This helps patients to follow a reduced-calorie diet and achieve weight loss results.

How does Saxenda work?

The active ingredient in Saxenda is liraglutide. Liraglutide is a GLP-1 receptor agonist. GLP-1 is a hormone naturally produced by your intestines after you eat. GLP-1 medications such as Saxenda, mimic the action of GLP-1 This means that the drug will increase the release of insulin and suppress glucagon secretion. As a result, it slows the emptying of the stomach and makes you feel fuller for longer. GLP-1 also targets areas of the brain that regulate your appetite and food intake.

The medication should go alongside a reduced-calorie diet and physical activity. As trials have demonstrated, people are more likely to stick to a healthy routine and ultimately lose weight when taking the medication.

Who is Saxenda for?

Saxenda is specifically prescribed for weight loss and to be eligible for the medication, you must meet one of the following criteria:

  • You’re 18 or above and your BMI is equal to or greater than 30
  • You’re 18 or above and your BMI is equal to or greater than 27 and you also have a weight-related medical problem such as high cholesterol, type 2 diabetes or high blood pressure

Combined with diet and exercise, the medication helps people who are overweight or obese to achieve a healthy weight and reduce their risk of dangerous weight-related medical conditions.

Is Saxenda safe?

Saxenda was approved for weight management in 2014 but has been sold under the brand name, Victoza, since 2010. Victoza is marketed for the treatment of type 2 diabetes. When patients taking the medication consistently noted weight loss, studies investigated liraglutide for weight loss. Saxenda was only approved to tackle chronic weight problems after extensive clinical trials proved the safety and efficacy of the treatment. 

A 56-week study found that participants taking liraglutide were more likely to maintain weight loss and reported few side effects. Improvements in cardiometabolic risk factors were also observed.

Although there’s strong evidence for the benefits of taking the medication, it’s critical to be aware of potential side effects. If you notice any adverse reactions to the medication, you should inform your healthcare practitioner immediately.

What are the side effects of Saxenda?

Most commonly, people report gastrointestinal disorders such as nausea, stomach pain, gas, diarrhoea, vomiting, and constipation. Additionally, people report headaches, tiredness, and dizziness.

More rarely, Saxenda may cause more serious side effects. These include:

  • Pancreatitis (inflammation of the pancreas)
  • Gallbladder problems
  • Low blood sugar
  • Increased heart rate
  • Kidney problems
  • Allergic reactions
  • Depression 

The bottom line

Saxenda is a weight loss medication that helps obese and overweight people to reduce food intake. The active ingredient, liraglutide, mimics a naturally-occurring hormone that’s released from the gut. As a result, patients feel full quicker and for longer. The medication should be self-administered by pen injection every day. Supplemented with a reduced-calorie diet and increased physical activity, participants have demonstrated excellent weight loss results.