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How does Wegovy® work for weight loss?

Written on May 23, 2023 by Gillian (Gigi) Singer, MPH. To give you technically accurate, evidence-based information, content published on the Everlywell blog is reviewed by credentialed professionals with expertise in medical and bioscience fields.

Table of contents

What is Wegovy®?

Wegovy® (semaglutide) “is an injectable prescription medicine that may help adults and children aged ≥12 years with obesity (BMI ≥30 for adults, BMI ≥ 95th percentile for age and sex for children), or some adults with excess weight (BMI ≥27) (overweight) who also have weight-related medical problems to help them lose weight and keep it off. Wegovy® should be used with a reduced calorie meal plan and increased physical activity.”[1]

How Wegovy® works

You may be wondering, "How does Wegovy® work for weight loss?" Wegovy® is a medication that targets the GLP-1 receptor and is intended to regulate blood glucose levels by stimulating the secretion of insulin and reducing the secretion of glucagon. It works to promote weight loss by reducing appetite. Although the medication's ability to cause weight loss is well-established, the specific mechanism by which semaglutide, the active ingredient in Wegovy®, produces this effect is still under investigation.[2]

It should be used in conjunction with lifestyle changes and is generally well-tolerated, although it can have side effects. As always, it's important to talk to your healthcare provider to see if Wegovy® is the right course of action for you.


Semaglutide is the active ingredient in Wegovy®. Semaglutide belongs to a class of medications called GLP-1 receptor agonists that imitate the effects of GLP-1 in the body. This medication stimulates the pancreas to increase insulin secretion while decreasing glucagon secretion, which is a hormone that raises blood glucose levels. Additionally, it slows down the rate at which the stomach empties, resulting in a sensation of fullness and reduced food intake.[3]

How to use Wegovy®

“Achieving optimal weight-loss results with Wegovy® requires reaching and staying at the full dose,” says their website.[1]

Regarding strengths, the site continues: “Wegovy® comes in 5 different dose strengths. You start Wegovy® at a dose of 0.25 mg once a week and increase the dose every 4 weeks until you reach the full dose of 2.4 mg. It’s important to follow the dosing schedule as recommended by your health care provider.” So, during month one, a person takes 0.25 mg per week. During month two, a person takes 0.5 mg per week. During month three, a person takes 1 mg per week. During month four, a person takes 1.7 mg per week. Starting in month five, a person takes 2.4 mg per week, which is the full dose.

Tips from the manufacturer [1]:

  • “You can take Wegovy® with or without food.
  • “If you need to change the day of the week, you may do so as long as your last dose of Wegovy® was given 2 or more days before.
  • “If you take too much Wegovy®, you may have severe nausea, severe vomiting, and severe low blood sugar. Contact your healthcare provider right away.
  • “If you miss a dose of Wegovy® and the next scheduled dose is more than 2 days away (48 hours), take the missed dose as soon as possible.
  • “If you miss a dose of Wegovy® and the next scheduled dose is less than 2 days away (48 hours), do not administer the dose. Take your next dose on the regularly scheduled day.
  • “If you miss doses of Wegovy® for more than 2 weeks, take the next dose on the regularly scheduled day or call your health care provider to talk about how to restart your treatment.”

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Who shouldn’t use Wegovy®

A handful of conditions would prevent you from being a good candidate for Wegovy®. These conditions include:

  • People who have had pancreas or kidney problems
  • People who live with type 2 diabetes and a history of diabetic retinopathy
  • Some people with mental health conditions
  • If you are trying to get pregnant or are already pregnant
  • Are breastfeeding or plan to in the near future

Side effects of Wegovy®

Wegovy® is a medication used for weight loss, though it may have unintended side effects.

The most common side effects of Wegovy® are nausea, diarrhea, vomiting, constipation, stomach pain, headache, fatigue, upset stomach, dizziness, feeling bloated, burping, gas, stomach flu, heartburn, and runny nose or sore throat.

Other side effects include inflammation of the pancreas, which causes severe pain in the abdomen and may extend to the back. Additionally, the medication can cause gallbladder problems, including the development of gallstones that may require surgery. Patients with type 2 diabetes who also take sulfonylureas or insulin are at an increased risk of low blood sugar (hypoglycemia), which can be serious and common. Other potential side effects include kidney problems, serious allergic reactions, changes in vision, increased heart rate, and depression or thoughts of suicide.[1]

Comparing Wegovy® and Ozempic®

Here are some similarities and differences between Wegovy® and Ozempic®.


  • The active ingredient for both Wegovy® and Ozempic® is semaglutide, which requires a prescription from a health care provider (HCP).
  • Both are administered via an injection pen.
  • Both can contribute to weight loss in their users.


  • Wegovy® is FDA-approved for weight loss, whereas Ozempic® is FDA-approved to aid in glucose control for patients with type 2 diabetes.[4]
  • The dosage is higher for Wegovy®.
  • Wegovy® is more often associated with side effects like diarrhea and nausea.[5]

How long do you take Wegovy® for weight loss?

Wegovy® weight loss results: what to know

Saxenda® average weight loss


  1. Wegovy®. Wegovy® (semaglutide) Injection 2.4 mg. https://www.wegovy.com/. Accessed May 15, 2023.
  2. Wegovy® Prescribing Information. Novo-pi.com. https://www.novo-pi.com/wegovy.pdf. Accessed May 15, 2023.
  3. Pratley R, Amod A, Hoff ST, et al. Oral semaglutide versus subcutaneous liraglutide and placebo in type 2 diabetes (PIONEER 4): a randomised, double-blind, phase 3a trial. Lancet. 2019;394(10192):39-50. doi: 10.1016/S0140-6736(19)31271-1. https://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(19)31271-1/fulltext.
  4. Indication and important safety information. Prescribing Information | Ozempic® (semaglutide) injection 0.5 mg or 1 mg. https://www.ozempic.com/prescribing-information.html. Accessed May 15, 2023.
  5. Wharton S, Calanna S, Davies M, Dicker D, Goldman B, Lingvay I, Mosenzon O, Rubino DM, Thomsen M, Wadden TA, Pedersen SD. Gastrointestinal tolerability of once‐weekly semaglutide 2.4 mg in adults with overweight or obesity, and the relationship between gastrointestinal adverse events and weight loss. Diabetes, Obesity and Metabolism. 2022;24(1):94-105. doi:10.1111/dom.14551. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/34514682/.
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