Disclaimer: None of the information in this article constitutes medical advice, and is just the opinion of the writer(s). We recommend that patients follow their doctor’s guidance in regard to prescription medication.
Wegovy is a prescription weight loss medication that’s injectable. The company claims it can help patients lose weight and keep it off.
In this article we’ll review the medical research on Wegovy to determine if it’s likely to be safe and effective, as well as highlight its side effects. We’ll also compare Wegovy to other popular weight loss injections like Saxenda.
Does Wegovy Work For Weight Loss?
A medical trial on Wegovy was published in the respected New England Journal of Medicine in 2021, testing whether the injections could help overweight and obese patients lose weight. Half of the patients received Wegovy injections and half of the patients received a placebo injection. Both groups also practiced lifestyle modifications such as reduced calorie diets.
The Wegovy group lost significantly more weight than the group receiving placebo injections. The average change from baseline body weight in the Wegovy group was -14.9%, while the average change from baseline body weight in the placebo group was only -2.4%. The trial lasted 68 weeks.
Another clinical trial assessed the efficacy of Wegovy for inducing weight loss in patients with type-2 diabetes. The results were similar. Patients on Wegovy injections lost 9.6% of their baseline weight after 68 weeks, compared to only 3.4% baseline weight loss with placebo injections.
The active ingredient in Wegovy injections, semaglutide, was even shown to be effective in an earlier trial at lower concentrations. Patients in this trial, which used doses of semaglutide ranging from 22% to 44% of the amount in Wegovy, experienced weight loss at a rate higher than placebo.
We can conclude from the available evidence that Wegovy is likely to be effective for weight loss, and may be more effective than lifestyle factors alone.
How Does Wegovy Work?
The active ingredient in Wegovy is part of a class of chemical compounds called glucagon-like peptide-1 receptor agonists (GLP-1RA). These compounds have several biological effects that can lead to weight loss.
GLP-1RAs have been proven in medical research to reduce appetite, slow the release of food from the stomach, and increase feelings of fullness after eating.
This class of drugs was initially developed for the treatment of diabetes, and weight loss was noted in the research as a favorable side effect for obese and overweight patients.
According to the linked study, the active ingredient in Wegovy can stimulate certain neurons (POMC/CART) and inhibit certain peptides (neuropeptide Y) which increase measures of satiation and decrease hunger.
Wegovy Side Effects
Gastrointestinal effects like nausea and vomiting were the most-reported side effects of Wegovy injections in the previously-linked efficacy trial. 63.5% of patients experienced these effects, which is a high number and significantly higher than placebo.
The more concerning side effects of Wegovy use are the rare but severe side effects like the increased risk of thyroid tumors, which Wegovy displays in the safety information on their homepage.
A recent medical review of Wegovy reported that 7.7% of patients using the treatment experienced “severe adverse events” which is a relatively high percentage for serious side effects. No patients were noted to have died as a result of Wegovy use.
Overall we find that Wegovy has a more concerning side effect profile than many prescription medications for weight loss.
Wegovy Vs. Saxenda
We recently published a Saxenda weight loss reviews article examining the research backing this prescription medication for weight loss.
The active ingredients in both drugs have similar safety and efficacy profiles when their clinical results are compared, which is unsurprising since they’re similar chemical compounds (liraglutide vs. semaglutide).
One meta-study examined the two drugs head-to-head and found that the active ingredient in Wegovy was more effective for weight loss than the active ingredient in Saxenda. The doses reviewed in this study are lower than the doses in Wegovy and Saxenda, so these results shouldn’t be directly interpreted that Wegovy is superior.
Wegovy may be slightly more effective, but we need more research to confirm that. For now we would recommend that patients prescribed one of these two medications compare their costs, since there aren’t any clearly differentiating factors between the efficacy and safety of the two treatments.
Wegovy Vs. Ozempic
Many patients are confused about the difference between Wegovy and Ozempic.
Wegovy and Ozempic contain the same active ingredient: semaglutide. Wegovy is prescribed for obesity and Ozempic is prescribed for type-2 diabetes. Ozempic contains a lower dose of semaglutide, and both medications are injectable.
For weight loss, Wegovy is likely to be more effective because semaglutide is proven in medical research to have a dose-dependent effect. This means that the higher the dose (to a limit), the more effective the drug is.
Since Wegovy contains a higher dose of semaglutide than Ozempic, this means that Wegovy is likely to be more effective for weight loss.
For diabetes, we recommend that patients speak with their doctor about Ozempic alone, because Wegovy is not approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in the U.S. for diabetes, even though it’s been shown in some studies to have a glucose-lowering effect.
Better Natural Alternatives
Wegovy has been established to be effective for weight loss primarily because it reduces appetite, increases satiation and delays gastric emptying. There’s also a natural food compound that has these exact same effects with no side effect risk: dietary fiber.
We frequently recommend dietary fiber in our weight loss medication reviews as a natural alternative, because it’s conclusively proven in medical studies to be effective for weight loss.
Many Americans don’t consume enough fiber through their diet. A medical study from 2017 estimated that 95% of Americans don’t achieve the recommended daily intake of dietary fiber from diet.
Fiber intake, just like semaglutide injections, has a proven dose-dependent effect on weight loss outcomes. The more fiber patients consume, to a reasonable limit, the more weight they lose on average.
Dietary fiber makes you feel full because it occupies space in the stomach with non-caloric plant material.
Fiber intake can be increased by whole foods or via supplements. Whole foods like beans, starchy vegetables, whole grains and fruits of all types are high in fiber.
For consumers who prefer a supplement to increase their fiber intake, we recommend a brand with no additive ingredients like sweeteners. Choose a fiber brand with fiber as the main active ingredient and no preservatives or added sugar.
Like most prescription medications, Wegovy doesn’t display a fixed cost of their product because it varies based on health insurance coverage. Novocare has a resource page where patients can input their health insurance information and check the cost of Wegovy.
Because Wegovy is a recently-approved (2021) drug, there is unfortunately no generic option approved by the FDA that’s available. Pharmaceutical companies typically are granted sole market access for 10+ years after a medication is approved, to recoup the costs of development and marketing of the drug.
We recommend that patients on a low income who are prescribed Wegovy or Saxenda speak with their doctor about comparing the costs between the two treatments, because they seem similarly effective in medical research.