Some people have hailed Saxenda® (liraglutide) and Ozempic® (semaglutide) as “miracle drugs.” They’ve been thrust into the spotlight recently because of their ability to help people lose weight.
It’s true—both medications can be used for chronic weight management and belong to the same drug class: glucagon-like peptide 1 (GLP-1) agonists. But they have their differences, including that Saxenda is U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved for weight loss. Ozempic, however, is indicated for the treatment of type 2 diabetes but prescribed off-label to treat overweight and obesity.
And things can get tricky when you discover that liraglutide is also the active ingredient in the type 2 diabetes medication Victoza®. Likewise, the FDA-approved weight loss drugWegovy® has semaglutide as its active ingredient—the same as Ozempic. So, it’s easy to get mixed up when sifting through the obesity and diabetes drugs to decide which one may be right for you when they are so similar.
Ultimately, Saxenda and Ozempic share multiple similarities and differences. We’re here to help you decipher the differences between Saxenda and Ozempic and give you the rundown of everything we know now about both meds. Let’s get started.
Saxenda (liraglutide) is FDA-approved for the treatment of overweight and obesity in individuals who have a Body Mass Index (BMI) of 30 or higher or a BMI of 27 or higher with a weight-related condition like high blood pressure, high cholesterol, or type 2 diabetes. As of December 2020, Saxenda is also FDA-approved for use in children ages 12-17 with obesity who weigh at least 132 pounds.
Novo Nordisk manufactures Saxenda, which is part of the GLP-1 receptor agonists drug class. What does that mean? Your body makes the GLP-1 hormone naturally to help control hunger. Liraglutide mimics the GLP-1 hormone, helping regulate appetite so you eat less.
Liraglutide also works to slow the emptying of the contents of your stomach—known as gastric emptying—to help you feel full longer.
Ozempic (semaglutide) is FDA-approved to treat type 2 diabetes. Its rise in popularity has been partly because of its ability to help patients lose weight. This is why it’s prescribed off-label for weight loss.
This weight loss medication works similarly to Saxenda (it’s also manufactured by the pharmaceutical company Novo Nordisk) and mimics the GLP-1 satiety hormone. But more than that, it works to help lower blood glucose levels in people with type 2 diabetes by stimulating insulin secretion from the pancreas to regulate blood sugar levels.
Many studies on liraglutide have shown meaningful weight loss results. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states that even a modest weight loss of 5 to 10 percent can improve your health and may decrease your risk of chronic obesity-related illness if you have overweight or obesity.
That said, the results speak for themselves when measuring Saxenda’s effectiveness in weight loss. An Obesity Science & Practice review published in 2017 examined five placebo-controlled studies and found that patients lost 5 to 10 percent of their body weight throughout the studies compared to the placebo group.
Participants in the clinical trials also instructed to make healthy lifestyle changes in diet and physical activity. And the manufacturer highly recommends maintaining lifestyle changes to sustain and manage weight loss.
A cohort study published in 2022 in the journal JAMA Network Open measuring the effects of different doses of semaglutide (0.25 mg, 0.50 mg. 1 mg, 1.7 mg, and 2.4 mg) of 175 participants discovered impressive results. For context, the patients on the highest weekly doses of semaglutide (1.7 mg or 2.4 mg) had the most significant weight loss at three and six months. After six months, the average body weight loss on semaglutide was 12.1 percent in the high-dosage group and 9.2 percent in the lower-dosage group.
Even the smaller doses of semaglutide yielded great results, and the patients on the higher doses showed even more substantial weight loss.
Because Saxenda and Ozempic are in the same drug class, they have very similar side effects. Be on the lookout for any adverse reactions or side effects when taking either medication. Let your doctor know immediately if you’re experiencing any of the following side effects.
Common side effects: nausea, diarrhea, constipation, vomiting, injection site reaction, low blood sugar (hypoglycemia), headache, tiredness (fatigue), dizziness, stomach pain, and change in enzyme (lipase) levels in your blood.
Serious side effects: inflammation of the pancreas (pancreatitis), gallbladder problems, low blood sugar (hypoglycemia), increased heart rate, kidney problems, serious allergic reactions, and suicidal thoughts or depression.
Common side effects: nausea, constipation, stomach pain, vomiting.
Serious side effects: changes in vision or diabetic retinopathy (damaged blood vessels in the eye), gallbladder disease, including gallstones or cholecystitis (gallbladder pain and swelling), kidney problems, pancreatitis, increased risk of thyroid cancer, allergic reactions, hypoglycemia (low blood sugar).
This is one of the key differences between Saxenda and Ozempic. Both come in prefilled subcutaneous (under-the-skin) injectable pens, but Saxenda is a once-daily injection, and Ozempic is a once-weekly injection.
Instructions for both medications are to inject the med in the abdomen, thigh, or upper arm.
No, you shouldn’t use them together. The Saxenda drug site warns that no other GLP-1 meds should be taken with or together while on Saxenda. So, avoid all other GLP-1 meds if you’re taking either Ozempic or Saxenda.
Also,, let your health care professional know about any other over-the-counter meds, supplements, or prescription drugs you’re taking in addition to your entire health history. Your provider must know everything about you to prescribe the best med and ensure no serious interactions.
That’s a question only you and your doctor can answer. Both medications have shown effectiveness in weight loss, but it all depends on you at the individual level. Your health care provider will review each med and let you know their recommendation. If you try Ozempic and have severe side effects or unsatisfactory results, they may have you try Saxenda instead and vice versa.
You may also find it easier to remember to take a weekly dose than a daily one. It comes down to what works best for you. You may have to try a couple before finding the best fit for you long-term.
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GLP-1 prescriptions, filled through your local pharmacy, are now available as part of Found's weight-loss toolkit. While GLP-1s are effective for weight loss, they are not clinically appropriate for everyone. Eligibility for a GLP-1 is based on a thorough evaluation of your medical history, eating behavior, lab work, and insurance coverage. If a GLP-1 is not appropriate for you, our providers will work with you to determine an effective medication for your health profile.
Found is among the largest medically-supported weight care clinics in the country, serving more than 200,000 members to date. To start your journey with Found, take our quiz.