What is Saxenda® (Liraglutide)?

Saxenda is an FDA-approved injectable prescription medicine that regulates one's appetite. Here's why it's prescribed, how it's used, and what to consider.
Medical Reviewer: Florencia Halperin, MD
Published on: April 19, 2022
Updated on: May 23, 2024

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Saxenda (liraglutide) is an FDA-approved weight loss medication available by prescription. In clinical trials, 3 out of 5 people taking Saxenda achieved significant weight loss of 5% or more. Studies show that even weight loss as little as 5% can have clinically meaningful effects.

Who should take Saxenda® (liraglutide)?

Weight loss can be hard. Many people struggle to lose weight despite investing lots of effort and trying different diets and weight loss programs. That’s because excess weight, or obesity, is a complicated chronic medical condition. It is the result of underlying biological factors including hormonal, metabolic and genetics factors. The good news is that there are new FDA-approved medications for weight loss that can help people lose weight when lifestyle intervention alone is not working. 

Saxenda is one of those new medications approved for weight loss. It is indicated for adults with a Body Mass Index (BMI) ≥30 or ≥27 with weight-related medical problems such as elevated blood pressure or high cholesterol to name a few. Saxenda is also approved for children aged 12-17 who meet certain criteria. For both adults and children, Saxenda should be used in along with lifestyle changes. This includes a reduced-calorie diet and increased physical activity. Saxenda can be used long-term along with healthy lifestyle habits to help patients keep weight off after they’ve achieved their weight loss goal. 

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How does liraglutide work?

Saxenda (liraglutide) is a 3mg daily injectable glucagon-like-peptide (GLP-1) receptor agonist. GLP-1 is a naturally produced hormone in the body that helps regulate your hunger and appetite. How does liraglutide work? Saxenda slows down stomach emptying and increases satiety. It makes you feel less hungry and keeps you feeling full longer. Before taking Saxenda, tell your provider about all medications you are taking, including over-the-counter as well as vitamins and supplements. This is because other medications can affect how Saxenda works and vice versa.

Saxenda contains the same liraglutide ingredients as Victoza®, which is an FDA-approved medication for the management of diabetes; however, Saxenda is a much higher dose than Victoza. Therefore, it should not be used with any other liraglutide-containing medication or other GLP-1 receptor agonists. Saxenda is injected into the skin in your abdomen, thigh, or upper arm ( not into the muscle or vein). 

What are Saxenda’s potential side effects?

It’s important to understand side effects before starting any new medication. Your doctor will start you at a lower dose and titrate the dose up every week until the full 3 mg dose is achieved at week five. The slow increase in the dose helps your body adjust to the medication and decreases the likelihood of side effects. 

The most common side effects of Saxenda include the following:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Constipation
  • Injection site reaction
  • Headache
  • Fatigue
  • Dizziness
  • Stomach pain 
  • Change in the enzyme lipase levels in your blood
  • Fever and gastroenteritis in children

If you miss more than three doses of your medication, you should communicate with your provider to determine if you should restart the medication at a lower dose. This may decrease the likelihood of side effects. Other serious side effects may include gallbladder problems such as gallstones, increased heart rate, kidney problems, allergic reaction, or depression. Kidney problems may result from dehydration due to nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. Drinking plenty of fluid will reduce dehydration and prevent kidney problems. 

Communicate with your provider while on Saxenda

It is very important that you communicate with your provider if you are experiencing severe abdominal pain, increased heart rate, increased thirst, severe nausea, and vomiting, as these might be a sign of serious side effects. You should also notify your provider of any change in your mental state.

Saxenda is contraindicated if you or any of your family have ever had medullary thyroid cancer or multiple endocrine neoplasia type 2, a disease where people have multiple gland tumors. Do not use it if you are pregnant or plan to become pregnant or breastfeeding because it may harm the baby. Do not use it if you have had an allergic reaction to liraglutide or Saxenda in the past.

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How does liraglutide work through FORM? The FORM approach to medical weight loss with Saxenda® 

At FORM, you will work with an obesity medicine specialist throughout your weight loss journey. Before your first visit, your provider will obtain your complete medical history from your PCP. Your provider will perform a comprehensive review of your overall health, current medication, weight history, prior weight loss attempts, and dietary history. You will also meet with a Registered Dietitian frequently who will help you implement lifestyle changes. These changes include nutrition, physical activity, and mindset shifts in conjunction with your weight loss medication.

Once treatment is started, you will meet with your FORM provider frequently to assess the effectiveness of any prescribed medication, like Saxenda, and review any side effects. Patients taking Saxenda while making lifestyle changes should notice at least 5% weight loss in 3-6 months. 

Dr. Florencia Halperin, Chief Medical Officer of Form Health and board-certified obesity medicine physician, has seen the impact of Saxenda first-hand while working with her patients. “Saxenda helps my patients manage their cravings and hunger,” says Dr. Halperin. She continues, “Saxenda and other GLP-1 receptor agonist medications are powerful tools, used along with lifestyle changes, to help patients achieve sustained weight loss and improved health.”  

Get Started with FORM

If you’re interested in seeking medical care for weight management and working with experts who can help you consider medications such as Saxenda® as a tool to help you reach your weight loss goal, give FORM a try! Our insurance-covered medical weight loss program uses tools like nutrition, physical activity, mindset shifts and FDA-approved medication, if appropriate. This makes up a comprehensive weight loss program to help you lose weight and improve your health. 

Get started with FORM today by taking our quiz to see if medical weight loss is right for you.

Questions about medical weight loss? Schedule a free call with an enrollment specialist to learn more.

Saxenda® and Victoza® are registered trademarks of Novo Nordisk A/S

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