A growing number of weight loss medications are available as the pharmaceutical and health care community recognizes obesity as a chronic disease. Not long ago, lifestyle changes were the standard recommendation for people who wanted to lose weight, and everyone received the same advice. But now, health care providers may prescribe drugs developed to control blood sugar levels for overweight and obesity.
Wegovy® and Saxenda® are two options in the growing selection of anti-obesity medications. These drugs work in similar ways. Both are glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1) receptor agonists, both have approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for weight loss, and both are injectable. The same company, Novo Nordisk, manufactures both drugs.
But are they interchangeable? Or is one better than the other? And what if you need other options?
Perhaps the best way to navigate these choices when it comes to medical weight loss is to work with an obesity medicine specialist. Found-affiliated providers are trained in obesity medicine, and can evaluate your unique challenges and personalize a prescription and treatment plan to help you lose weight.
If you want to learn more about these medications, explore our Wegovy vs Saxenda comparison below.
Although both Saxenda and Wegovy are GLP-1 receptor agonists, their active ingredients are different. Saxenda is the brand name for the active ingredient liraglutide, whereas semaglutide is the active ingredient in Wegovy. The FDA approved both liraglutide and semaglutide to treat type 2 diabetes under the brand names Victoza (liraglutide) and Ozempic (semaglutide). However, Saxenda and Wegovy come in higher doses than Victoza and Ozempic.
Liraglutide has a shorter half-life than semaglutide, so it stays active for less time. Its half-life is 13 to 15 hours after a single injection, compared to about 168 hours (or seven days) for semaglutide. Both medications mimic the body’s naturally occurring GLP-1 hormone, which helps regulate blood sugar and control appetite to support weight loss.
Both Wegovy and Saxenda are FDA-approved to treat adults—specifically, those with a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or higher or a BMI of 27 or higher with a weight-related health condition. In late 2022, Wegovy received approval for use in children ages 12 and up who have a BMI at or over the 95th percentile for their age and sex and weigh at least 132 pounds. (The FDA approved Saxenda for ages 12-17 in 2020.)
Clinical trials indicate that semaglutide treatment usually results in more significant weight loss. A 2022 clinical trial found that after 68 weeks, participants’ average body weight loss was almost 16% with a weekly dose of semaglutide and less than 6% with a daily injection of liraglutide. The study included a reduced-calorie diet and physical activity for those in both groups.
In a 2021 study, the average weight loss was 15% with semaglutide and 2% with a placebo. Compare these findings to a 2015 clinical trial of liraglutide, where participants lost an average of 8% of body weight, compared to less than 3% for those taking the placebo.
Because of semaglutide’s longer half-life, it may be especially effective for people with a Brain-Gut Disconnect MetabolicPrint™ profile, which means you often start to feel hungry again soon after a meal.
MetabolicPrint is Found’s proprietary metabolic health assessment. It helps your provider identify your unique metabolic challenges, which helps determine what medication will be the best support for your health journey. There are four types of profiles, and everyone has a unique mix, usually with a dominant profile. Not every drug addresses every profile—which is why it’s helpful to work with an obesity medicine specialist.
Both Wegovy and Saxenda are delivered as injectable medications, but the dosing schedules differ.
Liraglutide comes in prefilled injectable pens. You’ll receive a 30-day supply of Saxenda for weight loss, and you’ll give yourself a daily injection. Depending on your tolerance, your health care provider may increase your dose every week up to a maximum of 3 mg per day.
Semaglutide also comes in prefilled injectable pens. You’ll give yourself a weekly injection, and your Wegovy prescription for weight loss will come with a 28-day supply. Patients typically start with a weekly dose of 0.25 mg and may gradually increase the dose, up to a maximum of 2.4 mg per week. Your health care provider will decide what dose is right for you.
Both Wegovy and Saxenda can have mild or more serious side effects. In a 2022 clinical trial, as many as 27% of participants quit due to liraglutide’s side effects, compared to about 13% who quit because of the side effects of the semaglutide. JAMA notes that the shorter half-life of liraglutide can potentially cause “a more abrupt, and thus noticeable, return in hunger.” Additionally, weekly dose escalations of liraglutide potentially exacerbate a poor tolerance for the drug, making liraglutide side effects harder to manage.
For both medications, the most common side effects include nausea, diarrhea, constipation, vomiting, abdominal pain, headache, fatigue, and upset stomach. More serious side effects may include hypoglycemia (low blood sugar), pancreatitis, gallbladder disease, acute kidney injury, increased heart rate, or an increased risk of thyroid tumors. Find detailed side effect and risk information on our dedicated Wegovy medication page and Saxenda medication page.
You should not take any GLP-1 drugs in combination since that can increase the risks of side effects. Tell your provider about any medications you’re currently taking to prevent interactions.
Which medication is better for chronic weight management? The answer depends on your unique health conditions and history. Both drugs can be effective for significant weight loss, so you’ll need a health care professional to help you choose the best support for your weight loss journey.
If you are considering prescription medicine for weight loss, Wegovy and Saxenda may not be the right medication for you. Everyone’s biology is different—there are different reasons you may not be able to lose weight. Bottom line: The most effective medicine is the one that addresses your unique biology.
The best way to find the right medicine to support your weight loss is to work with a health care provider who specializes in obesity medicine. At Found Health, you can take a MetabolicPrint quiz which will help you and your Found-affiliated provider determine the best treatment plan for you.
To discover your MetabolicPrint and start your journey with Found, take our quiz. Found is among the largest medically supported weight care clinics in the country, having served more than 200,000 members to date.
GLP-1 prescriptions, filled through your local pharmacy, are now available as part of Found's weight-loss toolkit. While GLP-1s can be 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 and lab work. If a GLP-1 is not appropriate for you, our providers will work with you to determine an effective medication for your health profile.