Liraglutide, known more commonly by its brand name, Saxenda®, is a weight loss medication that’s been on the market for a while—since 2014, to be exact. With all the emerging obesity drugs over the last couple of years, a med on the market that was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration about nine years ago, seems ancient.
Saxenda was the first of its kind to receive FDA approval for weight loss in adults at the time. And since it’s been on the market for almost a decade, it’s been used and vetted by many people, so there’s more information about Saxenda than other weight management meds.
On top of that, liraglutide was initially FDA-approved for treating type 2 diabetes under the brand name Victoza®in January 2010. The diabetes drug uses a lower dose of liraglutide than Saxenda, but both are manufactured by the same Danish company—Novo Nordisk.
The Saxendaweight loss injection was joined by another FDA-approved weight loss drug in 2021, Wegovy®, and type 2 diabetes meds like Mounjaro™ and Trulicity®—both of which are prescribed off-label for weight management.
So, if you’ve been looking into Saxenda for weight loss and wondering if it may fit you, you’re in the right place. Let’s dive in.
Saxenda (liraglutide) is an FDA-approved once-daily injectable medication used for the treatment of chronic weight management in people with a body mass index (BMI) of 27 or higher and at least one weight-related medical problems like type 2 diabetes, hypertension (high blood pressure), or high cholesterol or those with a BMI of 30 or higher.
Saxenda was also approved in December 2020 for weight management in children ages 12-17 with obesity and weighing at least 132 pounds. It’s prescribed in conjunction with a reduced-calorie diet and physical activity.
Saxenda is a member of the glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1) agonist drug class. The hormone GLP-1 is produced in your gut and helps regulate hunger and insulin release. Saxenda mimics this important incretin hormone to control your appetite and support weight loss.
More than that, Saxenda slows gastric emptying, meaning food stays in your stomach longer, causing you to feel full.
Yes, many studies have shown effective liraglutide is for weight loss. In fact, a 2017 review of five randomized, placebo-controlled studies in Obesity Science & Practice found that throughout each trial, a greater portion of patients lost five to ten percent of their body weight compared with the placebo.
Similarly, in 2015, a study in The New England Journal of Medicine reported on a 56-week double-blind trial of 3,731 patients who received either a 3 mg weekly dose of liraglutide or a placebo in addition to lifestyle counseling. At the end of the trial, about 63 percent of the patients in the liraglutide group lost at least five percent of their body weight compared with only about 27 percent of the placebo group. Also, about 33 percent of those taking liraglutide and only 11 percent on the placebo lost more than 10 percent of their body weight.
The studies show that meaningful weight loss is possible with Saxenda.
Keep in mind that sustainable weight loss is achieved gradually over time. Saxenda won't be a “quick-fix” drug, and you’ll begin at a lower dose before you build to a higher dose to ensure your body can tolerate it.
That said, Novo Nordisk explains, “adults who take Saxenda® will know it's working for them if they lose 4% of their body weight by their 4-month follow-up appointment.” So, in the first month, you may notice weight loss, or it may take longer. The important part is to be patient and let your health care professional know if you’re not getting the recommended results.
When prescribed Saxenda, chat with your health care provider about possible side effects and ask for tips on handling them. Take note that Saxenda isn’t recommended for people who plan to become pregnant or who are pregnant or breastfeeding. And, with Saxenda for weight loss, there are common and more serious side effects. Here’s what we know.
Common side effects
Injection site reaction
Change in enzyme (lipase) levels in your blood
More serious side effects
Inflammation of the pancreas (pancreatitis)
Increased risk of low blood sugar (hypoglycemia) in adults with type 2 diabetes who also take medicines to treat type 2 diabetes, such as sulfonylureas or insulin
Risk of low blood sugar (hypoglycemia)
Increased heart rate
Kidney problems (kidney failure)
Serious allergic reactions
Depression or suicidal thoughts
Saxenda comes in a 30-day supply of once-daily prefilled injectable pens. The Saxenda dosing schedule is designed to help avoid severe side effects and allow your body to get used to the medication before upping the dose. Your health care provider will decide the correct dose for you, but here’s the recommended schedule for Saxenda:
Week one: 0.6 mg
Week two: 1.2 mg
Week three: 1.8 mg
Week four: 2.4 mg
Week five: 3.0 mg (full dose)
Yes. Another bonus of this weight loss med being on the market for longer is that researchers have had the chance to study it in patients for a longer time. A three-year clinical trial of liraglutide with 2,254 participants published in the Lancet in 2017 found patients who completed the trial sustained weight loss if they continued to take liraglutide as recommended in addition to diet and exercise. About 56 percent of those on the drug had lost at least five percent of their body weight. And half of that number maintained weight loss at year three.
Most report that side effects began to subside quickly when using Saxenda long-term for weight management. Talk to your health care provider about Saxenda and if it’s right for you. Always let them know what over-the-counter medications or supplements you’re taking in addition to your full medical history so they can decide on the best course of treatment for you.
*GLP-1 Note: "Found is not currently prescribing GLP-1 medications for weight loss, but we are considering it as a part of our strategy to help members meet their weight-loss goals in the future. Stay tuned for updates on a potential GLP-1 rollout at Found. Until then, we can still help you meet your weight-loss goals with our current online weight-loss program."
Found offers a science-backed approach to weight care that's based on your unique biology, psychology, lifestyle, and prescription medication needs. The average Found member loses 10 percent of their body weight during their first 12 months on the program. In total, members have lost 800,000 pounds to date. To start your journey with Found, take our quiz.