Saxenda: An Injectable Weight Loss Drug

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Saxenda (liraglutide [rDNA origin] injection) is an injectable weight-loss drug that helps your body to feel full sooner after you eat. This may help you to eat less overall. The product isn't right for everyone, but research studies have shown that prescription weight loss injections may help you reach and maintain a healthier weight.

The medication comes in a pre-filled pen and is injected into your body once each day, at any time of the day. If you take Saxenda, you'll work together with your physician to reach the most appropriate dose for you, up to 3 milligrams (mg).

Saxenda can be used by patients who have obesity (with a BMI of 30 or more) or by patients who have a BMI of 27 or more and a weight-related medical condition such as type 2 diabetes, high cholesterol, or high blood pressure. Patients who take Saxenda should also be ready to commit to lifestyle changes, including a healthy diet and exercise program.

Effectiveness of Saxenda

Your level of weight loss with liraglutide will depend on several factors, including how well you tolerate the medication and how well you stick to a low-calorie diet and exercise program. In clinical trials, patients taking Saxenda lost more weight than those patients who took a placebo. The patients who were studied took the medication for a year and also received counseling to promote diet and exercise lifestyle changes

At the end of the study, 62% of patients without diabetes lost at least 5% of their body weight, while only 34% of those taking a placebo reached that goal. In patients with diabetes, 49% of patients treated with Saxenda lost at least 5% of their body weight compared with 16% of patients treated with placebo.

If you currently weigh 250 pounds and you take Saxenda, stick to a low-calorie diet, and exercise on a regular basis, it's possible that you could lose 12.5 pounds or more. But keep in mind that you would need to continue your healthy lifestyle to keep the weight off for good.

Makers of this injectable weight-loss drug provide a support system called SaxendaCare. Patients who enroll in the program get access to additional information, coaching support, weekly emails, and dosing support to help them reach their healthy weight goals. 

Saxenda Side Effects

In clinical trials, the most common side effects observed in patients treated with Saxenda were nausea, low blood sugar, diarrhea, constipation, vomiting, headache, decreased appetite, dyspepsia, fatigue, dizziness, and abdominal pain.

In addition, some patients who took Saxenda reported serious side effects including pancreatitis, gallbladder disease, renal impairment, and suicidal thoughts. Saxenda can also raise the heart rate. You should stop taking it if you notice an increase in your resting heart rate that continues over time.

Precautions With Weight Loss Injections

Patients who should not take Saxenda include individuals who are pregnant and those who have had any prior serious reactions to liraglutide or any of its components. You should also avoid taking Saxenda if you are taking another GLP-1 receptor agonist or if you use insulin. Saxenda and another common medication called Victoza (prescribed for the treatment of type 2 diabetes) have the same active ingredient, liraglutide. Victoza provides a lower dose of liraglutide. The two medications should not be used together.

Studies have shown that Saxenda can cause thyroid tumors in mice and rats. While research has yet to determine a causal relationship in humans, cases of medullary thyroid carcinoma (MTC) have occurred in people taking Saxenda. Thus, Saxenda is not recommended for patients with a personal or family history of MTC. People with multiple endocrine neoplasia syndrome type 2 (MEN 2), a hereditary condition associated with MTC and other cancers, may also need to avoid Saxenda. 

You should talk to your doctor to make sure Saxenda is safe for you. Your healthcare provider will evaluate your health history and your medical conditions to decide if you can safely use the medication and if it is likely to improve your health.

Cost of Saxenda

The average retail price for a month's supply of liraglutide is around $1,600. Saxenda prices vary widely depending on your pharmacy and location.

However, your treatment may be covered by your insurance company. You can call your insurance provider to see if the medication is covered on your plan, or you can visit the Saxenda website and use their copay tool to get an estimate.

You may also be able to benefit from the Saxenda Savings Card. According to promotional information, some users are able to pay as little as $25 for a 30-day supply or save up to $200 per prescription. Keep in mind, however, that there is a maximum benefit of $200 per prescription and 12 benefits annually.

It can also help to shop around to find the best prices. The website GoodRx.com can help you find the pharmacy with the lowest price for Saxenda in your area. Saxenda coupons are also available at the website Drugs.com. Be sure to talk to your doctor about how long you will need to be on the medication so that you can calculate the real cost of the treatment over the long term.

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  1. Halawi H, Khemani D, Eckert D, et al. Effects of liraglutide on weight, satiation, and gastric functions in obesity: a randomised, placebo-controlled pilot trial. Lancet Gastroenterol Hepatol. 2017-2(12):890-9. doi:10.1016/S2468-1253(17)30285-6

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