• Current evidence shows Saxenda does not seem to be effective for long term use
  • Saxenda has a long list of potential side effects including cancerous thyroid tumors, kidney failure and depression
  • Saxenda is not a quick fix solution to weight loss and needs to be used alongside a reduced calorie intake and increased physical activity
  • The most effective approach to weight loss is eating regular nutritious meals, incorporating regular exercise and approaching any psychological barriers to incorporating healthy changes

What is it?

Saxenda is the product name for liraglutide, an injectable prescription medicine to help adults lose weight who have a Body Mass Index (BMI) of ≥ 30 kg/m2 (Obese) or ≥ 27 kg/m2 – 30 kg/m2 who also have at least one weight-related comorbidity such as prediabetes, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol or sleep apnoea (1,2). It is intended to be used alongside a reduced-calorie meal plan and increased physical activity, not just on its own (1,2).

It is a daily injection (up to 3mg) that is administered under the skin (subcutaneous injection) in your stomach area, upper leg, or upper arm (1,2). Saxenda is approved overseas by several drug administration bodies including the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and in the last couple of years by the Therapeutic Goods Association (TGA) of Australia as a prescription to assist with weight management (1,2).

So how does it work?

Our bodies naturally produce appetite hormone glucagon-like-peptide (GLP-1) that helps regulate hunger, Saxenda works by bonding with GLP-1 receptors and in turn regulates appetite by increasing feelings of fullness and satiety, lowering feelings of hunger (1,2). Simply put you feel full for much longer – which in turn can result in eating less calories and losing weight.

The evidence for use

Clinical findings summarised by the TGA showed that liraglutide (Saxenda) lowers body weight through decreased food intake and loss of predominantly fat mass which is a good initial outcome (1,2). However current evidence shows it does not seem to be effective for long term use for continued weight loss greater than 12 month period (2).

The benefits to using Saxenda particularly seem to be for those overweight who also have weight-related comorbidity such as prediabetes, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol or sleep apnoea (1,2). It is important to note that there are a lot of potential side effects, which seem to be more common at the higher dose levels (2).

What are the benefits/limitations for weight loss?

The benefits of Saxenda is that if there is an initial weight loss of at least 5% of initial body weight within 12 weeks, that there can be good weight loss outcomes for the first 12 months (2). However, studies looking at long term results (greater than 12mths) showed no further weight to be lost after 12 months in the overall mean result (2). In fact it is recommended for the administration of Saxenda to be discontinued after 12 weeks on 3.0mg/day dose if patient has not lost at least 5% of initial body weight so weight loss is not a guaranteed result for all who try it (1,2).  

While Saxebda may be a viable option to aid in weight loss, particularly for those with comorbidities mentioned earlier, it is important to remember Saxenda is not a quick fix solution to weight loss and requires a serious discussion with your health care provider. It can be expensive as it is not covered by healthcare, and refills cost approx. $387 (for 5 refills) for this daily injection that still needs to be used alongside a reduced calorie intake and increased physical activity.

Known clinical outcomes

The good news about the weight loss seen in studies with Saxenda is that it seem to be predominantly weight loss from fat mass rather than lean mass which is important for overall health and something to aim for in weight loss (2). However there are common side effects from taking Saxenda including nausea, diarrhea, constipation, headache, vomiting, low blood super (hypoglycemia), decreased appetite, upset stomach, tiredness, dizziness, stomach pain, and changes in enzyme (lipase) levels in the blood (1,2). More serious side effects to consider is the possibility for cancerous thyroid tumors, inflammation of the pancreas (pancreatitis), gallbladder problems including gallstones, low blood sugar (hypoglycemia), increased heart rate, kidney problems (kidney failure) due to loss of fluids (dehydration), serious allergic reactions and depression (1,2).

There are very specific clinical consideration that your healthcare provider will need to go over with you before deciding to use Saxenda as there are still unknowns about the use of Saxenda including if you are pregnant or plan to become pregnant Saxenda may harm unborn baby and unknown if it passes through your breast milk, how safe and effective it is when used with other prescriptions, over the counter or herbal weight loss products.

Our LifeShape clinical recommendations for weight loss

When choosing a weight loss prescription or program it can be tempting to focus on the achieving the initial weight loss, however it is also important to look at what you want to achieve and what you can sustain and afford in the long term.  

The LifeShape clinic recommendations for weight loss are focused on utilising the combined expertise of our team of health care professionals that include Dietitians, Exercise Physiologist, Psychologists and Medical Doctor so that we can help individualise a plan to help you achieve your weight loss goals while building sustainable long term changes that add to your health such as eating regular nutritious meals, incorporating regular exercise and approaching any psychological barriers to incorporating healthy changes.

1. https://www.saxenda.com/

2. https://www.tga.gov.au/sites/default/files/auspar-liraglutide-190429.pdf