Woman standing on bathroom scale and wondering about Saxenda® vs. Wegovy® for weight loss

Saxenda® vs. Wegovy® For Weight Loss

Medically reviewed on Aug 10, 2023 by Jillian Foglesong Stabile, MD, FAAFP. 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.

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Recently, Ozempic®, a semaglutide injection, has made headlines for its potential to aid weight loss. Ozempic®, however, is not an approved weight loss medication. Rather, it’s a non-insulin treatment for people with type 2 diabetes.

Its parent company, Novo Nordisk, does produce another semaglutide injection, however, made and approved for weight loss and weight-related problems. It’s called Wegovy®. Before Ozempic® and Wegovy®, however, was Saxenda®, a diabetes medication turned weight-loss treatment—and another child of Novo Nordisk—that contains liraglutide.

While both Saxenda® and Wegovy® are approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for weight loss, they contain different formulas, dosing, and indications. To understand which, if either, may be right for you, let’s break down Saxenda® vs. Wegovy® below.

What Is Saxenda®?

In 2014, the FDA approved Saxenda® for chronic weight management in adults who are obese with [1]:

  • BMI of 30 kg/m2 or higher
  • OR
  • BMI of 27 kg/m2 or higher and at least one weight-related condition

In 2020, the FDA also approved Saxenda® for chronic weight management for pediatric patients. That is, those who are 12 and older with a body weight above 132 pounds or 60 kg and obesity. [2] That said, Saxenda® is labeled as an “adjunct therapy,” meaning you should use it in conjunction with a reduced-calorie diet and physical activity like most weight loss medications.

The active ingredient in Saxenda® is liraglutide, a glucagon-like peptide‐1 (GLP‐1) receptor agonist. GLP-1 receptor agonist is a hormone that’s created in the gut that can reduce appetite and increase insulin levels. As such, it’s a common ingredient in many weight-loss and diabetes medications. [3]

Numerous studies have found that GLP-1 receptor agonists, like liraglutide, support and sustain weight loss in people given a 3 mg dose, the dosage available in Saxenda®’s injectable pen.3 The dosing for GLP-1 medication typically starts low and is gradually increased over a few weeks to a maintenance dose.

How To Inject Saxenda®

When prescribed Saxenda®for weight loss, you’ll receive a once-daily, self-injectable prefilled pen that contains the liraglutide dosage. Scripts for this weight loss drug typically include 30 days of medication.

Fortunately, you can take Saxenda® at any time of the day, with or without food, although you must work your way up in dosage to avoid gastrointestinal problems.

Since it’s a subcutaneous injectable, it must be injected under the skin in various areas, depending on the advice of your health provider. These areas include [4]:

  • Abdomen
  • Thigh
  • Upper arm

To prepare the pen, you must equip it with a new needle and check the flow before injecting it into your skin. Then, by turning the end of the pen clockwise, you choose the dose, which can vary [4]:

  • 0.6 mg per day (Week 1)
  • 1.2 mg per day (Week 2)
  • 1.8 mg per day (Week 3)
  • 2.4 mg per day (Week 4)
  • 3 mg per day (Week 5)

Once the appropriate dose is selected, you’ll insert the needle into the skin to administer the liraglutide, and then remove and replace the needle. [4]

Side Effects Of Saxenda®

Gastrointestinal issues, such as bladder pain, nausea, and diarrhea, are the most common side effects of liraglutide.3 Although, those taking daily doses of this weight loss drug may also experience [5]:

  • Bloody or cloudy urine
  • Painful urination
  • Frequent urge to urinate
  • Fever and chills
  • Cough
  • Headache
  • Hoarseness
  • Joint pain and muscle aches
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Vomiting
  • Fatigue or weakness

All that said, the most common side effects directly related to Saxenda® treatment include [6]:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Constipation
  • Low blood sugar
  • Headache
  • Tiredness
  • Dizziness
  • Stomach pain
  • Injection site reaction

More severe side effects of this GLP-1 medication can include inflammation of the pancreas, gallbladder problems, low blood sugar, allergic reactions, depression and/or thoughts of suicide. [6]

Pediatric patients most commonly experience fever and gastroenteritis, inflammation of the stomach and intestines that can cause vomiting and diarrhea. [6]

For these and other reasons, certain people should avoid Saxenda®, including [6]:

  • People with a family history of medullary thyroid carcinoma (MTC) or Multiple endocrine neoplasia type 2 (MEN 2)
  • People allergic to liraglutide
  • People who are pregnant or planning to become pregnant
  • People who are taking another GLP-1 agonist

Effectiveness Of Saxenda®

How long does it take to lose weight on Saxenda®? It’s generally believed that Saxenda® patients will lose about four percent of their body weight after four months of using the medication. [7]

Liraglutide has been found to be very effective in supporting and maintaining weight loss in obese patients. [3] In one three-year study of 2,254 adults with pre-diabetes and the appropriate weight and health qualifications for Saxenda®, 56% of subjects experienced significant weight loss in the span of one year; 50% of these subjects were also able to maintain their weight loss for three years. [7]

In another study that involved 3,731 adults with a BMI of at least 31 or a BMI of at least 27 and a weight-related health problem (excluding type 2 diabetes), 85% of Saxenda® patients lost some amount of weight. [7]

Everlywell Weight Loss Support

What Is Wegovy®?

Wegovy® is a semaglutide injection that was approved by the FDA for chronic weight management in 2021. Like liraglutide, semaglutide is a GLP-1 agonist that mimics the GLP-1 hormone to regulate hunger and blood sugar levels.

The Wegovy® dose is less than Saxenda®: Patients will work their way up to a 2.4 mg dose to lose weight, which is administered weekly, on the same day each week [9]:

  • 0.25 mg a week (Weeks 1–4)
  • 0.5 mg a week (Weeks 5–8)
  • 1 mg a week (Weeks 9–12)
  • 1.7 mg a week (Weeks 13–16)
  • 2.4 mg a week (Weeks 17 and on)

The medication is approved for people 12 and older who are obese under these guidelines [9]:

  • Adults: BMI at least or more than 30
  • Children: BMI equal or greater to the 95th percentile of their age and sex

It’s also available to adults who are overweight (BMI of at least 27) and also experience a weight-related health issue, such as high blood pressure or high cholesterol.

How To Inject Wegovy®

Similar to Saxenda®, you should use Wegovy® alongside a lower-calorie diet and increased physical exercise. While you must take it once a week on the same day, you can take it at any time, with or without food. [10]

The pen is single-use, meaning you’ll need a new pen every week (there are four pens in every pack). Unlike Saxenda®, the needle is hidden, meaning it won’t need to be handled and the dose is preset for convenient administration. [10]

Before administering the medication, you’ll need to check the expiration date on the back of your pen and ensure the pen is set to the correct dosage. Then, clean the injection area (stomach, thigh, or upper arm) with an alcohol wipe and remove the pen cap. Press the pen firmly on the injection site and listen for two clicks—the first indicates that the injection has begun, and the second that it is ongoing. [10]

Side Effects Of Wegovy®

While Wegovy® has shown promising results in clinical trials,11 like any medication, it can come with potential side effects. Common side effects reported with Wegovy® include [12]:

  • Nausea
  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Constipation
  • Stomach pain
  • Headache
  • Tiredness
  • Upset stomach
  • Dizziness
  • Feeling bloated
  • Excess belching and gas
  • Stomach flu
  • Heartburn
  • Increased heart rate

In more severe cases, Wegovy® can cause [12]:

  • Pancreatitis
  • Gallbladder problems
  • Kidney failure
  • Allergic reactions
  • Change in vision in people with type 2 diabetes
  • Depression or thoughts of suicide

Those who take Wegovy® are also at a higher risk of thyroid c-cell tumors, including medullary thyroid carcinoma (MTC). As such, patients with a history of pancreatitis or a family history of MTC should exercise caution when considering Wegovy® as a weight-loss solution. [13]

Another potential side effect is a decrease in appetite, which can contribute to weight loss but may also lead to a reduced intake of essential micronutrients if not managed properly. Patients taking Wegovy® may need to make conscious efforts to ensure a balanced diet and adequate hydration. Like other GLP-1 receptor agonists, Wegovy® can also impact blood sugar levels. While this can be beneficial for individuals with type 2 diabetes, it might lead to low blood sugar (hypoglycemia) in some cases. [13]

Effectiveness Of Wegovy®

Wegovy®'s mechanism of action involves increasing feelings of fullness, which can result in decreased food intake. This contributes to a sustained reduction in body weight over time. Additionally, Wegovy® has shown potential benefits for individuals with type 2 diabetes by helping to improve blood sugar control. [14]

Studies on the efficacy of Wegovy® found that patients taking the medication lost about 35 pounds in 68 weeks, or 15% of their body weight. In these studies, participants taking Wegovy® experienced greater weight loss compared to those on a placebo. [14]

Monitor Your Weight With Everlywell

Both Saxenda® and Wegovy® are effective weight loss medications for obese adults and children aged 12 or older. While Saxenda® contains liraglutide and Wegovy® contains semaglutide, both are effective GLP-1 agonists that can help decrease hunger levels in people trying to lose weight. However, whether you’re overweight vs. obese, you must meet the criteria for these types of medications.

If you’re having difficulty choosing the right medication for you or difficulty managing your weight, make a telehealth appointment with an Everlywell healthcare provider. Our online weight management program provides access to regular clinical care, lab testing, and GLP-1 prescriptions. Plus, you can virtually meet with your provider from the comfort of your own home.

Schedule your first appointment today to get started.

How Much Weight Can You Lose in 3 Months?

How to Start a Weight Loss Journey: Key Steps

How to Maintain Weight After Weight Loss


  1. FDA approves weight management drug for patients aged 12 and older. FDA. Published December 4, 2020. URL. Accessed August 8, 2023.
  2. Is Saxenda® a Good Fit for You? Saxenda®. URL. Accessed August 8, 2023.
  3. Mehta A, Marso S.P., Neeland I.J. Liraglutide for weight management: a critical review of the evidence. Obes Sci Pract. Published December 19, 2016. URL. Accessed August 8, 2023.
  4. Learn to Use Your Saxenda® Pen. Saxenda®. URL. Accessed August 8, 2023.
  5. Liraglutide (Subcutaneous Route). Mayo Clinic. URL. Accessed August 8, 2023.
  6. Understanding Saxenda® Side Effects. Saxenda® URL. Accessed August 8, 2023.
  7. Weight Loss with Saxenda®. Saxenda® URL. Accessed August 8, 2023.
  8. Medications Containing Semaglutide Marketed for Type 2 Diabetes or Weight Loss. FDA. URL. Accessed August 8, 2023.
  9. Wegovy® Dosing Schedule for Adults. Wegovy® URL. Accessed August 8, 2023.
  10. How to Take Wegovy®. Wegovy®. URL. Accessed August 8, 2023.
  11. Singh G. Wegovy (semaglutide): a new weight loss drug for chronic weight management. J Investig Med. Published October 27, 2021. URL. Accessed August 8, 2023.
  12. Keeping An Eye On Common Side Effects. Wegovy® URL. Accessed August 8, 2023.
  13. Wegovy®. Wegovy®. URL. Accessed August 8, 2023.
  14. Efficacy and safety. Wegovy®. URL. Accessed August 8, 2023.
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