What is Saxenda?
Saxenda (Liraglutide) is a prescription medication used to aid weight management in adults with obesity. Developed by the Danish pharmaceutical company Novo Nordisk, Saxenda was approved by the FDA in December 2014 for the treatment of chronic weight management, combined with a reduced-calorie diet and physical activity. Saxenda is administered once a day by subcutaneous injection.
This drug is designed for adults with obesity (body mass index (BMI) >30) or overweight (BMI >27) with one obesity-related condition such as type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, hypertension, or high cholesterol. As with many prescription medications, women who are pregnant or planning to become pregnant should not take Saxenda.
How does Saxenda work for weight loss?
Saxenda contains the active ingredient liraglutide, which is a glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1) receptor agonist. GLP-1 is a hormone produced in the gut that stimulates insulin secretion and helps regulate blood sugar levels.
Liraglutide is a synthetic version of GLP-1, tailored to be long-lasting in the body, and works by mimicking the actions of GLP-1 in the body.
Liraglutide binds to GLP-1 receptors in the brain, reducing appetite and food cravings, which in turn can make it easier for someone to adhere to a reduced-calorie diet. Saxenda also slows down the movement of food through the stomach and intestines, helping reduce appetite and making you feel full for longer periods of time.
It is important to note that Saxenda does not ‘make’ you lose weight or ‘burn more calories.’ Saxenda can work as a very helpful component of a weight loss care plan that includes healthy eating, reduced calorie intake, exercise, and other lifestyle modifications.
What are clinical trial weight loss results for Saxenda?
Saxenda has been shown in clinical trials to reduce body weight and improve health outcomes effectively. In one clinical trial in 2015, overweight or obese adults who took Saxenda for 56 weeks lost an average of 8.4% of their body weight, compared to 2.8% in those who received a placebo. However, there is wide variability between patients, with some losing much more weight, and others receiving little to no benefit. ¹
Other large-scale clinical trials have also shown that Saxenda can be very effective for losing weight with the added benefit of improved glycemic control. ²
What are the health benefits of Saxenda?
In addition to weight loss, Saxenda may offer overweight or obese individuals other important health benefits too, including improvements in blood sugar control, blood pressure, cholesterol, and A1c levels.
What are potential side effects of Saxenda?
As with all medications, Saxenda can cause side effects. The most common side effects include nausea, diarrhea, constipation, headache, vomiting, and low blood sugar. These side effects are usually mild to moderate and may decrease or go away entirely after a few days or weeks of treatment. Adjustment of the dose may also be helpful, so it is important to work closely with your healthcare provider if you are experiencing any side effects.
In rare cases, Saxenda can cause more serious side effects, such as pancreatitis (inflammation of the pancreas), gallbladder problems, and kidney problems. These side effects are more likely to occur in people who have a history of these conditions or risk factors for these conditions.
Am I a good candidate for Saxenda?
You may be a good candidate for Saxenda if you have:
- Body mass index (BMI) over 30
- BMI over 27, plus a weight-related health condition such as high blood pressure, diabetes, or elevated lipids.
- Due to lack of data on safety in pregnant humans, women who are pregnant or planning to become pregnant should not take Saxenda
What should I be sure to tell my healthcare provider when considering Saxenda?
Your healthcare provider will ask you about your medical history, including past and present medical conditions as well as any prior weight loss efforts. It is always important to talk to your healthcare provider about the potential risks and benefits of Saxenda before choosing to start this medication. Your healthcare provider will help you decide if Saxenda is right for you, and then monitor both the weight loss benefits and potential side effects.
How to use Saxenda?
Saxenda should only be used under the supervision of a healthcare provider. Saxenda comes in a pre-filled injection pen and is administered once a day, typically just under the skin in the abdomen, thigh, or upper arm.
Your healthcare provider will show you how to use the injection pen and may adjust your dose based on your response to the medication. As with all weight loss prescription medications, Saxenda should be used in conjunction with a care plan that includes a reduced-calorie diet, healthy food choices, and exercise. Your healthcare provider can help tailor a care plan to ensure your weight loss and improved overall health will be long-term.
What if I miss a dose of Saxenda?
If you miss a dose, take it as soon as you can. However, if it is almost time for your next dose, take only that dose. Do not take double or extra doses. If you miss taking your dose for 3 days or more, be sure to call your care team to discuss how to restart taking Saxenda.
What happens if I stop taking Saxenda?
It is an unfortunate fact that most people who lose weight regain much or all of the weight that they lost. On the one hand, this should be expected if after losing weight someone stops everything they did to lose weight and goes back to doing everything exactly as they did while gaining weight.
However, making very important lifestyle changes like eating a healthy diet and getting more physically active often are not enough to prevent regaining weight. The reason for this is that when you have obesity, the regulation of your body weight is dysfunctional. Your body will try to push you back to your previous weight. In this situation, Saxenda or some other long-term weight loss medication may be a necessary part of the care plan needed to keep your weight in a healthier place.
It is as important to work with your health care provider after a weight loss program as it is during the weight loss program!
- New England Journal of Medicine: https://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/nejmoa1411892
- National Library of Medicine: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5358074/
National Library of Medicine: https://dailymed.nlm.nih.gov/dailymed/drugInfo.cfm?setid=3946d389-0926-4f77-a708-0acb8153b143
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