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Weight Management

Saxenda Explained: Side Effects, Reviews, and Key Information

Pharmacy2U Team | minute read
weightloss image, woman excising outside

Saxenda (liraglutide) is a prescription medication used for weight management in adults living with obesity or those who are overweight with a weight-related health condition. If you've tried diet and exercise but haven't achieved the results you desire, these injections could be a treatment option to help you reach a healthy weight, if considered suitable by your prescribing clinician.

Studies suggest that a course of Saxenda, combined with a healthy diet and lifestyle, can lead to significant weight loss of around 5-10% for many, and if you want to find out more about this treatment, explore our comprehensive guide to Saxenda below.

How does Saxenda work?

Our bodies naturally produce hormones that influence appetite. Saxenda’s active ingredient liraglutide mimics a specific gut hormone, glucagon-like peptide (GLP 1), that helps you feel fuller for longer and may reduce hunger pangs. This could lead to a decrease in calorie intake and therefore contribute towards weight loss when combined with regular physical activity and a balanced diet.

Who can use Saxenda?

Saxenda might be suitable for you if you’re an adult with:

  • A Body Mass Index (BMI) of 30 or greater (considered obese)

  • A BMI of 27 or more (considered overweight) and are living with a weight-related health condition like high blood pressure. 

Attaining a prescription is subject to a clinical consultation with a doctor, who will work with you to determine if the treatment is the right fit for you. You can complete an online consultation easily with Pharmacy2U, where our registered GPs will review your responses and prescribe a treatment if appropriate.

Who shouldn’t use Saxenda?

There are groups of individuals who are not suitable for this type of treatment. Saxenda is not recommended for people living with:

  • Liver disease

  • Kidney disease

  • Heart failure

  • Severe stomach or gut problems

  • Inflammatory bowel disease

  • A personal or family history of medullary thyroid cancer (MTC) or Multiple Endocrine Neoplasia type 2 (MEN 2)

Saxenda is not approved for use in children or during pregnancy.

Saxenda dosage

Saxenda has a specific dosage plan to ensure your body adjusts comfortably. The pre-filled injection pens are used daily. You'll typically start with a low dose (0.6mg) for at least a week before gradually increasing by 0.6mg each week until you reach the maintenance dose (3.0mg). Your doctor or clinician will determine the best schedule for you to follow.

How long does Saxenda take to work?

Saxenda starts working straight away, in that you should notice a difference in your hunger and appetite rather quickly. Your individual weight loss will depend on a variety of factors, including how well your body responds to the medication and your lifestyle habits. The best results are seen when individuals combine Saxenda with a low-calorie diet and regular exercise. It could take weeks or months to see significant results, so don’t be disheartened if the weight does not drop off immediately.

Foods to avoid while on Saxenda

There are not any specific foods to avoid while on Saxenda. However, focusing on a healthy, balanced diet with plenty of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains is beneficial for weight loss success. For advice on which foods are best to consume, speak to your pharmacist before you begin your treatment. You should aim to limit your intake of processed foods and prepare fresh meals wherever possible.

How to use Saxenda

Saxenda is injected under the skin (subcutaneously) using a pre-filled pen. At Pharmacy2U, patients prescribed Saxenda are issued with 5 injector pens for at-home administration.

Where to inject Saxenda

Recommended injection sites include the upper arm, front of the thigh, or the top of the waist, aka fatty areas of the body. You should aim to rotate the injection site daily to reduce the risk of cutaneous amyloidosis (lumps under the skin). Do not inject into a vein or muscle.

Best time to take Saxenda

There isn’t one particular best time of day to take Saxenda, as you can inject it at any time of day, with or without food. However, for best results, try to take it around the same time each day to maintain a steady level of the medication in your body. It's also likely to be easier to remember to take daily if it becomes part of your daily routine - so you’re less likely to miss a dose.

Saxenda side effects

Experiencing side effects when taking Saxenda is more common at the start of your treatment as your body is adjusting to the new substance. It is important to maintain a good level of hydration while taking Saxenda. Possible common side effects of Saxenda include:

  • Nausea and vomiting.

  • Indigestion.

  • Fatigue.

  • Dizziness.

  • Difficulty sleeping. 

  • Gallstones.

  • Bruising or irritation at the injection site.

  • Low blood sugar. 

More rare side effects include:

  • Increased heart rate.

  • Allergic reaction resulting in a skin rash or anaphylaxis.

  • Gall bladder inflammation. 

  • Thyroid issues.

  • Dehydration (usually caused by vomiting or diarrhoea).

  • Pancreatitis. 

If you are experiencing side effects when taking Saxenda, contact your pharmacist or doctor for help and advice. Stop taking Saxenda and contact a doctor immediately if you experience severe pain in your upper abdomen, usually worst on the right side under the ribs, as this could be a sign of gallbladder issues.

Does Saxenda actually work?

Studies into Saxenda show that liraglutide helps to induce and sustain weight loss. In five different randomised trials, taking Saxenda consistently resulted in a 4-6kg weight loss when combining the treatment with a healthy diet and physical activity. The fact that all five studies resulted in similar significant reductions in weight provides support for Saxenda as a treatment for obesity. This indicates that Saxenda could be an effective weight loss tool providing it's suitable for the person seeking support to reach a healthy weight.


How much weight can you lose on Saxenda in a month?

Weight loss with Saxenda varies depending on individual factors like diet, exercise, and starting weight. It's best to discuss realistic expectations with your GP and get tailored advice.

Wegovy vs Saxenda

While both Wegovy and Saxenda are GLP-1 receptor agonists that mimic the body's "I'm full" hormone, they differ in their active ingredients. Wegovy uses semaglutide, whereas Saxenda uses liraglutide. Which medication is right for you, can be discussed with your clinician or doctor.

Is Saxenda the same as Ozempic?

No, they are not the same. Although both medications work similarly by mimicking GLP-1 to suppress your appetite, Saxenda’s active ingredient is liraglutide and Ozempic is semaglutide. Ozempic is only licensed for use in treating individuals with type 2 diabetes, whereas Saxenda can be prescribed for weight loss.

Why am I not losing weight on Saxenda?

There can be several reasons why you might not be losing weight on Saxenda. It's important to discuss this with your doctor. They can assess factors like your diet, exercise routine, dosage, and any potential underlying issues.

How long does a Saxenda pen last once opened?

Your Saxenda pen should be refrigerated when not in use, and safely disposed of after 30 days of being opened. If the pen contains unused medication, it should still be thrown away after 30 days and a new pen used for your next dose.