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Wegovy vs Saxenda: Which is more effective for weight loss?

Although they belong to the same family, Wegovy and Saxenda contain different active ingredients.

Wegovy vs Saxenda: Which Is More Effective for Weight Loss? | Juniper

You've probably seen and heard about weight loss medications, Wegovy and Saxenda, all over the news and on the internet. While all these medications seem like the same thing, there are some key distinctions between them all and some notable differences in how they support weight loss.

While Wegovy and Saxenda belong to the same family and behave similarly in the body, they contain different active ingredients.

Wegovy contains the active ingredient semaglutide while Saxenda contains liraglutide. Plus, each medication is administered differently, with one being a weekly dose and another being administered through daily doses.

If you've thought about trying one of these medications or you're thinking about making the switch from one to the other, it's important to understand how each weight loss medication works, how they can aid weight loss and the side effects you should expect to make an informed decision about what's right for you and your weight loss treatment plan.

What is Wegovy?

Wegovy, otherwise known by the active ingredient semaglutide, is a chronic weight management medication belonging to a group of drugs called glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1) receptor agonists [1]. Wegovy is an injectable prescription medication intended for adults with obesity.

Typically it's prescribed for those with a body mass index (BMI) over 30 or people with a BMI over 27 that are also navigating weight-related medical conditions like type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol [1].

Wegovy comes in a pen pre-filled with a single dose that is injected under the skin in either the abdomen, the upper arm, or the thigh. Wegovy is administered as a weekly injection roughly around the same time of day and can be taken either with or without meals [1].

Wegovy is intended to be used in combination with a reduced-calorie diet and increased physical activity to see the maximum benefit when it comes to weight loss.

You can access Wegovy via Juniper's Weight Reset Programme.

How does Wegovy work?

Wegovy works by mimicking the GLP-1 hormone, naturally produced by the gut, pancreas, and nervous system, which are involved in regulating appetite [2]. This can help people reduce the number of calories consumed, in turn, helping people with weight loss.

GLP-1 targets areas of the brain involved in appetite regulation, particularly after eating. Plus, stomach emptying is slowed down, which creates the feeling of fullness for a more extended period of time and increases the production of insulin [2].

What is Saxenda?

Saxenda, which contains the active ingredient liraglutide, is another weight-loss injection. Similar to Wegovy, Saxenda is intended to support weight loss when used with a calorie-controlled diet and improved physical activity.

Much like Wegovy, Saxenda can be used for people with obesity (BMI over 30) or those who are overweight (BMI over 27) and have at least one weight-related medical problem [3].

Saxenda is used as a daily injection into the stomach, the upper arm, or the thigh, and the starting dose is typically 0.6mg but can be increased weekly by a healthcare provider by 0.6mg until the 3mg effective full dose is reached [3].

How does Saxenda work?

Saxenda and Wegovy work in very similar ways by reducing appetite and slowing down gastric emptying.

Saxenda belongs to the same family of medications as Wegovy, which mimics the GLP-1 hormone naturally produced by the gut, controlling blood sugar and insulin [3]. This works to keep you fuller for longer and reduce food intake, which aids weight loss.

Is Wegovy more effective than Saxenda for weight loss?

While Wegovy and Saxenda work in the same way, they do contain different active ingredients, with Saxenda containing liraglutide and Wegovy containing semaglutide.

Both Saxenda and Wegovy have demonstrated effective results in helping people lose weight when combined with making lifestyle changes, including following a reduced-calorie meal plan and regular exercise.

Since these medications work in very similar ways, there has been a debate about which one of these medications is more effective in promoting weight loss. Let's take a look at some clinical trials researching the effectiveness of both Wegovy and Saxenda.

Effectiveness of Wegovy

In STEP 1 clinical trials examining the effectiveness of Wegovy in 1,961 adults with a BMI over 30, researchers found that 50% of participants lost at least 15% of their initial body weight in combination with behavioural changes [4].

Other research suggests that Wegovy has other effects aside from just improvements in body weight, but in patients with type 2 diabetes, it decreased the rate of cardiovascular death, non-fatal myocardial infarction and non-fatal stroke [5].

Effectiveness of Saxenda

Placebo-controlled and randomised clinical trials found that Saxenda, in combination with increased physical activity and diet changes, resulted in patients losing 5-10% of their body weight in comparison to the placebo group [6].

Researchers also suggest that Saxenda shows benefits to cardiovascular outcomes, including improved glycemic control [7].

Wegovy vs Saxenda

Wegovy and Saxenda work similarly since they belong to the same family of medications. But, recent research shows that one is more effective for weight loss than the other.

A 68-week study compared Saxenda and Wegovy in 300 adults and found that those taking Wegovy achieved more significant weight loss than those taking Saxenda [8].

The group taking Wegovy lost 16% of their initial body weight in combination with an improved diet and increased physical activity. In comparison, those taking Saxenda lost 6% of their initial body weight [8].

So, while both Wegovy and Saxenda have shown effective results in helping people lose weight, when the medications are put head to head, the effectiveness shown by the research favours Wegovy.

It's important to note that neither of these medications is a quick-fix solution to weight loss. All clinical trials have shown positive improvements in weight loss and better cardiovascular outcomes with the help of a reduced-calorie diet and regular exercise.

Essentially, medication alone isn't a silver bullet to support weight loss.

What are the side effects of Wegovy vs Saxenda?

Like all other medications, there are some side effects associated with Wegovy and Saxenda.

The most common side effects of both Wegovy and Saxenda are gastrointestinal issues, as both of these medications delays gastric emptying. However, some side effects are temporary and tend to go away by slowly increasing your dose.

Let's take a look at some of the more common side effects of both Wegovy and Saxenda:

  • Nausea, vomiting, and stomach pain
  • Diarrhoea
  • Constipation
  • Increased heart rate
  • Fatigue
  • Headaches and dizziness
  • Abdominal pain [9]

There are also more serious side effects with both these medications, most notably, the risk of thyroid C-cell tumours [10]. Those with a family history of thyroid cancer should avoid taking both Saxenda and Wegovy.

Other more serious side effects from both these medications include:

  • Pancreatitis: inflammation of the pancreas
  • Gallbladder issues
  • Hypoglycemia: low blood glucose levels
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Increased heart rate [9]

If you experience any of these symptoms and side effects, it's important to contact your healthcare provider and seek medical advice.

Can you switch from Saxenda to Wegovy?

If you're currently taking Saxenda and thinking about switching to Wegovy, the first thing you should do is consult your healthcare professional to discuss your options and which medication is right for you.

If you do decide to switch from Saxenda to Wegovy, you can start your Wegovy injection the day after your last Saxenda injection. If you're switching from Wegovy injections to Saxenda, you can start your Saxenda injection one week after your last Wegovy injection.

However, it's important to follow instructions from your healthcare professional and follow the treatment plan they provide you with.

In the UK, you can access Wegovy through Juniper's Weight Reset Programme, which combines prescription medications with personalised health coaching and lifestyle changes to help you achieve long-term and sustainable weight loss.

Alongside medication, our clinicians provide lifestyle coaching and health tracking, while also giving you access to a supportive community of like-minded women who are on a weight loss journey just like you.

And, while Saxenda is a daily injection, Wegovy is administered weekly, making it far more convenient for busy lifestyles. The reason there is a difference in the regularity of injections is because semaglutide, the active ingredient in Wegovy, acts for longer than liraglutide, which is the ingredient in Saxenda.

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