Saxenda Review: Are Weight Loss Injections Safe?

Saxenda Review: Are Weight Loss Injections Safe?


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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 weight loss medication.

Saxenda is one of the leading weight loss prescription medications. This is an injectable medication, which is relatively unique in that most prescription weight loss drugs that we've reviewed on Illuminate Health are oral tablets.

Saxenda is the branded version of a generic drug called liraglutide, and we'll use these terms interchangeably throughout this article because they refer to the same active drug compound.

But is Saxenda shown in research studies to cause weight loss? And if so, by how much? Does this medication cause side effects? And how do real Saxenda users rate and describe the effects of the drug?

In this article we’ll answer all of these questions and more, as we review clinical studies on Saxenda to determine if the drug causes weight loss, and if so, how much weight loss is possible.

We'll discuss side effects, feature patient reviews and explain how to access Saxenda at the lowest price.

We'll also discuss whether patients have to avoid certain foods while taking Saxenda, and compare the drug's effectiveness to another popular weight loss drug called Wegovy.

Does Saxenda Cause Weight Loss?

Saxenda has been studied in many clinical trials for its effects on weight.

A clinical trial published in the Lancet journal found Saxenda to be more effective than both placebo and another popular weight loss medication called orlistat. Patients on Saxenda lost an average of 15.9 pounds over the 20 week trial, which equates to a potential annualized weight loss of 41.34 pounds.

Also noted in the above-linked study is that Saxenda users experienced a statistically significant decrease in blood pressure, and also a reduced prevalence of prediabetes.

A 2012 medical review on Saxenda documented that patients using the medication lost an average of 12.8 pounds more than placebo, and 7.9 pounds more than another leading weight loss drug.

Both of the above-referenced trials involved adult patients, but a recent clinical trial evaluated Saxenda for treating obesity in adolescents. The drug was found to be effective.

A 5% Body Mass Index (BMI) reduction over 56 weeks was experienced by around half of the adolescents taking Saxenda, and a 10% BMI reduction was experienced by around 1 in 4 adolescents taking Saxenda.

We will conclude from the available research that Saxenda is effective for weight loss in both adults and adolescents, which is unsurprising given that the medication is approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for those indications.

Does Saxenda Cause Side Effects?

The main side effects of Saxenda are gastrointestinal in nature. 

According to the manufacturer's website, common side effects are nausea, diarrhea, constipation and vomiting.

The more rare but more concerning side effect, in our opinion, is the potentially increased risk of cancer, which Saxenda also documents on their website.

medical review on the side effects of Saxenda for weight loss concluded that the drug "may be associated with an increased risk of thyroid, pancreatic, and early breast cancer.”

The FDA requires drug manufacturers to list potentially life-threatening side effects on the drug label in a "black box" warning. Saxenda's FDA label has a black box warning referencing a potentially increased risk of thyroid C-cell tumors with use of the drug.

The cancer risk is certainly more rare than the common side effects like nausea, but in light of this information it may be prudent for patients with a personal or family history of cancer to speak with their doctor about alternative weight loss medication options. 

Real People Try Saxenda

A YouTube creator named Dawn Barlow tried Saxenda for 14 days and shared her experience:

A YouTube video on the CBS New York page interviews a Saxenda user and includes before-and-after images:

How Much Does Saxenda Cost?

Saxenda can be expensive without health insurance in the US. 

According to GoodRx, the retail price at the time of updating this article is $1,627.

The drug manufacturer's website has a Cost Navigator resource page that patients can use to determine if they're eligible for discounts. 

Health insurance can significantly reduce the price in some cases too.

We typically recommend that patients speak with their doctor about generic medications, since they should be similarly effective to brand-name medications but can be significantly cheaper in some cases.

However, there is no generic version of Saxenda on the market at the time of updating this article.

Drug manufacturers often have exclusive rights for a period of years, so generic Saxenda may become available in the future.

Patients Review Saxenda

Saxenda has been reviewed over 1,400 times on Drugs.com and has an average rating of 7.5/10 at the time of updating this article. This website allows prescription drug users to publish personal reviews of their experience.

We cannot verify the authenticity or accuracy of any reviews on this website.

The top positive review of Saxenda comes from a user named "lbdd13" who claims the drug has been effective and has caused minimal side effects:

"I am currently in week 3. I have lost 14 pounds. The side effects have been minimal, and are a little stronger on a day that I increase dosage. The notable side effects are a light nausea when it is time to eat, or after a meal in which I have eaten more than I should."

The top negative review is from an anonymous user who is unhappy about their results on Saxenda:

"Just finished my 3rd week on Saxenda, about to start the 2.4 dose tomorrow. Result - nothing. No side effects eg. nausea, diarrhoea, stomach pains, dizziness. Just nothing. No weight loss except one pound."

We don't want to discredit this second patient's experience, but we do want to note that the weight loss results they experienced are actually relatively favorable. One pound of weight loss in three weeks equates to a potential annualized weight loss of 17 pounds, which would be significant.

Saxenda vs. Wegovy

Wegovy is another injectable weight loss medication, so patients are often curious about which drug is more effective.

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). 

A medical review published in the Healthcare journal examined the two drugs head-to-head and found that Wegovy was more effective for weight loss than Saxenda. 

As we explained in our Wegovy reviews article, we don't believe that there is enough research to suggest that either drug is clinically superior, so we'd recommend that patients ask their doctor about which of the two drugs they recommend for weight loss.

Is Avoiding Certain Foods Required?

Patients are often curious about whether there are certain foods or categories of food that they need to avoid while using Saxenda.

The drug's FDA label does not list any specific foods that users need to avoid, which suggests that there are no potentially unsafe food interactions.

The manufacturer's website does state that users experiencing nausea may benefit from eating low-fat foods, so this is an important consideration to keep in mind since nausea is a potential side effect of Saxenda.

Given that Saxenda is a weight loss drug, eating a healthy diet rich in whole foods like fruits and vegetables and low in processed foods like pizza may be sensible while using the drug.

This could further improve weight loss outcomes, since a healthy diet is associated with a healthy weight.

Our Clean Weight Loss Picks

There are food-based nutrients which have been shown in medical studies to be effective for weight loss.

Dietary fiber was shown in a medical review published in The Journal of Nutrition to cause 16 pounds of weight loss in 6 months when combined with moderate caloric restriction (750 calories per day below baseline).

MBG Organic Fiber Potency+ is our top fiber pick because it's certified organic, provides 7 g of fiber per serving and costs under $1.85 per serving at the time of updating this article.

MCT oil was shown in a meta-study to cause more than one pound of weight loss over 10 weeks. This equates to potential annualized weight loss of 6 pounds per year with less than one tablespoon's worth of MCT oil per day.

Bulletproof MCT Oil is our top MCT oil product, because the only ingredient is MCT oil derived from coconuts. and it currently costs only $15.50 for over a month's worth of product.

Ginger intake "significantly decreased body weight" according to a 2019 meta-study on ginger and weight loss that analyzed data from 14 clinical trials.

Pique La Ginger is our top ginger product, because it's an organic tea in convenient crystallized form, and all that's needed is to pour the powder into a glass and add hot water.

All three of the products mentioned in this section are entirely free of additive ingredients that we consider to be unhealthy.

We're not suggesting any of these supplements should be used to treat any medical condition, or that they're as effective as any FDA-approved medication; rather, we're just sharing information that individuals averse to prescription medication can speak with their doctor about.

How Does Saxenda Work?

Saxenda’s active ingredient is a chemical compound called liraglutide, which stimulates insulin secretion by the pancreas. 

Medical research has shown that this biological effect can cause weight loss in two ways: delayed gastric emptying and appetite suppression.

Delayed gastric emptying means food stays in the stomach longer than usual, which keeps a patient full for longer. Appetite suppression is probably caused by this effect.

Because Saxenda stays in the body for a relatively long time (it has a half-life of 13 hours), the medication only needs to be used once daily in most cases.

As we documented in our liraglutide reviews article, this medication can improve cardiac output and vascular function, which explains the blood pressure and cholesterol reductions in some of the studies we've reviewed.

Stay up-to-date on our research reviews

Conclusion

Saxenda is effective for weight loss in both adults and adolescents, and is FDA-approved for weight loss in both groups.

The drug also may have favorable secondary effects such as decreased blood pressure and cholesterol levels.

One clinical trial found that another popular weight loss medication called Wegovy was slightly more effective than Saxenda, but we don't believe there is enough research to conclusively say so.

Saxenda does cause side effects in some patients, the most concerning of which involves potentially increased cancer risk.

Patients aren't required to avoid any specific foods while taking Saxenda, but it may make sense to adopt a whole food diet, rich in fiber, which could further support weight loss.

Saxenda currently has a retail price over $1,000, but this cost can be reduced through the cost savings resource page that we linked to in this article, and with certain types of health insurance.