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Saxenda

Saxenda is the brand name for Novo Nordisk’s weight management medication with the active ingredient liraglutide. It is FDA-approved as a once-daily injection for patients aged 12 and older diagnosed with obesity. Studies show an average weight loss of 6.4% (of baseline weight) over 16 months.

Last Modified: December 19, 2023
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What Is Saxenda?

Saxenda is a weight loss drug manufactured by Novo Nordisk that contains the active ingredient liraglutide. Patients taking Saxenda administer it as a daily injection.

Liraglutide is in a class of drugs known as GLP-1 agonists that mimic the natural hormone GLP-1. The drug binds to GLP-1 receptors in the body to stimulate the release of insulin. It also suppresses appetite, resulting in decreased caloric intake to support weight loss goals. It helps people feel full longer because it slows the movement of food through the stomach.

Did You Know?
After years of research and development, liraglutide was selected as the first GLP-based analog suitable for once-daily dosing.

Studies show statistically significant weight loss among participants using a 3 mg dose of liraglutide. However, the fact that patients must administer Saxenda injections daily can cause problems with medication compliance. This difficulty contributed to continued research that led to the development of other GLP-1 agonist drugs, including Novo Nordisk’s Victoza (another liraglutide drug), as well as Wegovy and Ozempic (semaglutide drugs).

What Is Saxenda Used For?

Saxenda has FDA approval as a weight management medication for adults and teens aged 12 through 17. Patients use it in conjunction with a reduced-calorie diet and increased physical activity to promote sustained weight loss.

Saxenda Facts
  • FDA approved in 2014 for adults diagnosed with obesity
  • FDA approved in 2020 for patients 12 and older diagnosed with obesity
  • Not approved to treat Type 2 diabetes

Doctors can prescribe Saxenda for patients diagnosed with obesity. Many patients with this long-term health condition also have other conditions that may see improvement during treatment. For example, Saxenda may help stabilize blood sugar levels in patients with both obesity and Type 2 diabetes.

Effectiveness of Saxenda for Weight Loss

Studies show that patients can achieve a statistically significant weight loss while using Saxenda. The average amount of weight lost in trials was 6.4% of the participant’s original body weight over 68 weeks, compared to less than 2% with a placebo. Along with the medication, trial participants received counseling on proper diet and physical exercise strategies for weight loss.

Brand Name Active Ingredient Typical Weight Loss Approved Use
Saxenda Liraglutide 3 mg 6.4%1 Weight Management
Wegovy Semaglutide 2.4 mg 15.8%1
Victoza Liraglutide 1.8 mg 4.7%2 Type 2 Diabetes Management
Ozempic Semaglutide 2 mg 6.3%3
  1. As a percentage of original body weight over a 68-week trial.
  2. As a percentage of original body weight over a 56-week trial.
  3. As a percentage of original body weight over a 40-week trial.

Saxenda has proven itself an effective weight management tool for patients diagnosed with obesity. It helps to suppress appetite, slow gastric emptying and promote insulin production to produce measurable weight reduction.

Only Wegovy and Saxenda are FDA-approved for weight loss. Other similar drugs approved for Type 2 diabetes may produce weight loss, but they do not have FDA approval for that use. Using a medication off-label can pose serious health risks.

Saxenda Dosage Information

The standard dose of Saxenda is 3.0 mg per day. Saxenda dosing uses a step-up system to give the body adequate time to adjust to the medication. Patients start with a daily 0.6 mg injection and gradually increase until they reach the maintenance dose of 3.0 mg per day. Patients should return to their doctor for a progress check after four months of use.

Saxenda Dosing
  • Week 1: 0.6 mg/day
  • Week 2: 1.2 mg/day
  • Week 3: 1.8 mg/day
  • Week 4: 2.4 mg/day
  • Week 5 and beyond: 3.0 mg/day

Saxenda comes in a pre-filled pen that delivers six days of the 3.0 mg dose. You must administer Saxenda as a daily injection delivered under the skin of your abdomen, thigh or upper arm. Never inject Saxenda into a vein or muscle. Rotate the daily injection site to minimize the risk of developing lumps under the skin.

Saxenda Boxed Warning

Saxenda carries an FDA Boxed Warning to alert patients of an increased risk of thyroid tumors when taking liraglutide. This is the highest level of warning the FDA can require on medication packaging.

The warning expressly explains that rats and mice developed thyroid C-cell tumors while taking liraglutide and that it’s unknown whether that risk pertains to humans.

Who Should Not Take Saxenda?

Individuals with a personal or family history of certain types of thyroid cancers or who have the rare genetic disorder multiple endocrine neoplasia should not take Saxenda. Patients who are pregnant or who have a known allergic reaction or hypersensitivity to ingredients in Saxenda shouldn’t take it.

“Saxenda is contraindicated in patients with a personal or family history of MTC or in patients with multiple endocrine neoplasia syndrome type 2. Counsel patients regarding the risk of MTC and the symptoms of thyroid tumors.” — Saxenda Boxed Warning”

Certain medical conditions, including pancreatitis, renal disease and Type 2 diabetes requiring treatment with insulin, increase the risk of complications when taking Saxenda. Patients with these conditions should discuss the risks with a healthcare provider before taking Saxenda.

Lawsuit Information
If you or a loved one have suffered complications after taking Saxenda, you may be able to join ongoing legal action against Novo Nordisk.

Saxenda Side Effects

Common Saxenda side effects are typically mild and resolve within a few days, and most are gastrointestinal. For most patients, they do not interfere with taking Saxenda. More serious side effects are possible and can persist for weeks.

There are also increased risks of developing potentially life-threatening conditions when taking Saxenda. Be sure to discuss the risks of liraglutide with your health care provider before beginning treatment.

Common Side Effects

The most common side effects of Saxenda include gastrointestinal distress, affecting more than 15% of study participants taking the medication. Patients with preexisting Type 2 diabetes reported increased rates of hypoglycemia, indicating the need for careful monitoring.

Common Saxenda Side Effects
  • Constipation
  • Decreased appetite
  • Diarrhea
  • Dizziness
  • Fatigue
  • Headache
  • Indigestion
  • Nausea
  • Upper abdominal pain
  • Vomiting

Side effects are most likely to occur when first starting Saxenda or immediately after increasing your weekly dose. Most common Saxenda side effects resolve within several days. Contact your health care provider if you experience adverse effects that last more than a few days.

Serious Side Effects

Some patients report serious side effects while taking Saxenda. Patients taking other GLP-1 agonists, including Victoza, Ozempic and Rybelsus, may experience similar symptoms.

Serious Saxenda Side Effects
  • Clay-colored stools
  • Depression
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Dizziness
  • Facial swelling
  • Fainting
  • Heart pounding
  • Jaundice
  • Mood changes
  • Pancreatitis
  • Stomach paralysis
  • Vomiting

Patients reporting severe vomiting lasting for weeks have taken legal action against Mounjaro, another drug classified as a GLP-1 co-agonist, claiming manufacturer Eli Lilly failed to disclose the risks of taking it. The seriousness of side effects has also contributed to Ozempic lawsuits and other legal action on behalf of patients who have suffered long-term effects.

Saxenda Warnings and Precautions

Product packaging for Saxenda contains several warnings for potentially life-threatening complications. Anyone with an increased risk of developing any of these conditions should discuss the potential complications with a healthcare provider before taking Saxenda.

Saxenda Safety Warnings
Acute Gallbladder Disease
Patients taking Saxenda reported increased rates of gallstones, most of which required surgical removal.
Acute Pancreatitis
Patients taking Saxenda report slightly increased rates of acute pancreatitis. This typically presents as severe abdominal pain that may or may not spread to the back.
Hypersensitivity Reactions
Allergic and hypersensitivity reactions are possible when taking liraglutide. Patients with a known allergy to Saxenda ingredients shouldn’t take it.
Hypoglycemia
Patients taking insulin-stimulating pills for Type 2 diabetes face an increased risk of developing serious hypoglycemia when taking Saxenda. Monitoring blood levels before starting Saxenda and during treatment is important to ensure safety.
Increased Heart Rate
Saxenda may contribute to elevated heart rate and increased risk of tachycardia. Patients should undergo routine heart rate monitoring for safety.
Renal Impairment
GLP-1 agonists can cause elevated rates of renal impairment and failure. This is often associated with dehydration from decreased appetite, vomiting and diarrhea.
Risk of Thyroid T-Cell Cancers
Rats and mice developed T-cell tumors at elevated rates while taking liraglutide. Patients with a history of thyroid cancer should not take Saxenda.
Suicidal Thoughts
In clinical trials, 0.2% of patients taking Saxenda reported suicidal thoughts. Doctors should monitor patients for depression and altered moods or behavior while taking the drug.

Patients should understand the potential risks associated with taking Saxenda and how personal medical history can impact them. Discuss any concerns about possible reactions to the medication with your doctor.

Is There a Saxenda Shortage?

The unprecedented demand for medications to support weight loss has contributed to a global shortage of drugs, including Saxenda. Novo Nordisk acknowledges the problem and is working to resolve it as soon as possible. However, the company cautions that you may have trouble locating a sufficient supply of medication throughout the rest of 2023 and beyond.

The European Medicines Agency has noted this shortage and highlights that it isn’t related in any way to product quality. The EMA advises you to contact your prescribing doctor as early as possible if you are at risk of running out of Saxenda. You may need to switch to another, similar medication to avoid a care disruption.

Please seek the advice of a medical professional before making health care decisions.