Wegovy vs Saxenda: Key differences

Used alongside exercise and a controlled diet, medications like Saxenda and Wegovy can help you to lose weight. Wegovy and Saxenda are both injectable medications that work by making you feel fuller for longer from less food. This makes it easier to control your eating and diet to lose weight more effectively. And, while they both work similarly, there are some key differences between them. These include how often you take the drugs, your dosage, and the effectiveness of the medications. Being aware of the differences may help you decide which drug is right for you.

Dr Clair Grainger

Medically reviewed by

Dr Clair Grainger

Last reviewed: 09 Feb 2024

What’s the difference between Saxenda and Wegovy?

There are some key differences between Saxenda and Wegovy that might affect your choice of weight-loss medication. These include effectiveness, frequency of doses and availability.

Saxenda has been available on prescription since 2017 for weight loss , while Wegovy is expected to be made available in 2023. Both drugs are manufactured by the same company, Novo Nordisk.

Key differences include:

Active ingredients

The active ingredient in Wegovy is semaglutide, which mimics GLP-1, a hormone that releases insulin and reduces appetite. Semaglutide remains in the body for a greater period of time than naturally produced GLP-1, which means you feel full for longer, eat less and therefore reduce your calorie intake. It also slows down the time your stomach takes to empty and pass food into your digestive system. Semaglutide is known as a GLP-1 agonist.

Saxenda’s active ingredient is liraglutide, another GLP-1 agonist. It works in the same way as semaglutide; by mimicking the hormone that causes your body to release insulin and which reduces your appetite. It also slows down the digestive process.

Dosages

There are significant differences in doses between Wegovy and Saxenda, as Wegovy is taken weekly, while Saxenda is injected daily.

Semaglutide (the active ingredient in Wegovy) has a half-life of seven days, which means that after a week, half of it will still be present in your body. The half-life of liraglutide (the active ingredient in Saxenda) is one day (24 hours).

You will reach the full dose more quickly with Saxenda than with Wegovy. The amount of Saxenda you take will increase weekly, while your dosage of Wegovy will be reviewed every month. In five weeks, you will be at your full dosage of Saxenda, while it will take five months to reach your full dosage of Wegovy.

What are the different dosages of Wegovy?

There are five different doses of Wegovy: 0.25mg, 0.5mg, 1mg, 1.7mg, and 2.4mg. Each dose comes in its own coloured pen. Wegovy injecting pens need to be kept in a fridge.

What is the recommended dosage of Wegovy?

You should take Wegovy on the same day every week.

  • Month 1:You will start with the recommended dose of 0.25mg.
  • Month 2:Your dose will be increased to 0.5mg once a week.
  • Month 3:Your dose will be increased to 1mg.
  • Month 4:Your dose will be increased to 1.7mg
  • Month 5 and beyond: After Month 4, your dose will be increased to 2.4mg. This is the dose you will continue taking for the rest of your treatment.

Your doctor or healthcare professional will give you clear advice and instructions about what dosage to take and how to step up your intake. Each dose of Wegovy comes in a different coloured pen, to make taking the correct amount more straightforward.

What are the different doses of Saxenda?

Saxenda comes in a pre-filled pen. Each pen contains 3ml solution and is able to deliver doses of 0.6mg, 1.2mg, 1.8mg, 2.4mg and 3.0mg. You turn the dose selector to the dosage you require and then inject. You should keep your pens in a fridge. Always use a new needle for each injection.

What is the recommended dosage of Saxenda?

You should take Saxenda at the same time every day. If you need help remembering when to take your medicine, set a reminder on your phone or leave yourself a note.

  • Week 1: You will start Saxenda with the recommended dose of 0.6 mg daily
  • Week 2: Your dose will be increased to 1.2mg daily.
  • Week 3: Your dose will increase to 1.8mg a day.
  • Week 4: Your dose will be increased to 2.4mg a day.
  • After week 4: our daily dose will be increased to 3.0mg. This is the dose you will continue taking for the rest of your treatment.

Side effects

The side effects of Wegovy and Saxenda are very similar, however, studies suggest that semaglutide (Wegovy) is better tolerated than liraglutide (Saxenda). In a randomised trial, 13.5% of participants in the semaglutide group stopped their treatment because of side effects, compared with 27.6% of the people taking liraglutide. However, 80% of people in both groups reported common side effects and GI (gastrointestinal, or stomach and intestine) issues.

Dosages of both medications are increased gradually in order to minimise side effects and to allow you to be aware of any reactions you might have. The slow increase also gives your body a chance to get used to the drug.

Common serious side effects include:

  • possible thyroid tumours, including cancer (you should not use Saxenda if you or anyone in your family has ever had a type of thyroid cancer called medullary thyroid carcinoma (MTC) or if you have an endocrine system condition called Multiple Endocrine Neoplasia syndrome type 2 (MEN 2))
  • inflammation of your pancreas (pancreatitis)
  • gallbladder problems
  • increased risk of low blood sugar (hypoglycaemia) in patients with type 2 diabetes
  • kidney problems and kidney failure
  • serious allergic reactions
  • change in vision in patients with type 2 diabetes
  • increased heart rate
  • depression or thoughts of suicide

If you notice signs of any of these serious side-effects, you should contact your doctor or healthcare professional.

Less serious side effects that the medications have in common include:

  • nausea
  • diarrhoea
  • vomiting
  • constipation
  • lower stomach pain
  • headache
  • tiredness
  • upset stomach
  • dizziness
  • feeling bloated
  • belching and gas
  • heartburn

Contact your doctor or healthcare professional if any of these side effects bother you or don’t go away.

Frequency of injections

Wegovy is taken weekly, while Saxenda needs to be injected daily. People who feel uncomfortable injecting, have an unpredictable schedule, or who are nervous about needles might prefer a weekly rather than daily dose.

Effectiveness

Trials have shown that Wegovy is the more effective weight loss drug. In a 2022 study that compared the effects of Wegovy and Saxenda on people with obesity showed that those taking semaglutide (Wegovy) lost 15.85% of their body weight compared to 6.4% in the liraglutide (Saxenda) group. Both groups combined the treatment with diet and exercise.

The study also showed that 13.5% of those taking semaglutide (Wegovy) discontinued their treatment due to side effects, while 27.6% of those taking liraglutide (Saxenda) stopped taking theirs.

What similarities are there between Wegovy and Saxenda?

Both Saxenda and Wegovy work in the same way, by mimicking the GLP-1 hormone, which targets the areas of the brain that regulate appetite. They both make you feel full, helping regulate your appetite, aiding weight loss.

They are both delivered via injectable pen, and have similar side effects, including, most commonly, Gastrointestinal issues.

Both are only or will only be available via prescription for people who have:

  • a BMI of between 27 kg/m² and 30 kg/m² and a health problem that can affect your weight, such as diabetes
  • a BMI of 30 kg/m² or more, even if you do not have a weight related medical condition

They are or will be prescribed as part of a weight management programme that might include diet changes, exercise or surgery.

Can you get Saxenda and Wegovy on the NHS?

Saxenda is available on the NHS and Wegovy will be available shortly. However, it can be difficult to get a prescription on the NHS, and you will have to try a range of different weight loss options first.

They are usually prescribed by specialist weight management services (at Tier 3 level), not your GP. Your doctor can refer you to the Tier 3 Weight Management Service.

If you do get a prescription, you will only have to pay the NHS prescription charge (or get it for free if you are eligible).

Alternatively – or in addition to – a prescription for Wegovy or Saxenda, a GP might recommend alternative routes to weight loss including:

  • joining a local weight loss group
  • exercise on prescription
  • changing your diet
  • trying a diet programme or very low calorie diet
  • increasing time spent exercising
  • setting realistic goals and monitoring your progress

Where can you buy Wegovy and Saxenda?

It is possible to buy Saxenda online or from a pharmacy, providing you have a prescription for it.Wegovy is not available yet, but it will be soon. You can order Saxenda and will soon be able to order Wegovy from Superdrug Online Doctor.

Sources

Patient Reviews