Wegovy vs Saxenda - 6 differences between GLP-1 injections
Is Wegovy different to Saxenda?
Yes, the active ingredient in Wegovy is different from Saxenda. Wegovy contains semaglutide where as Saxenda contains liraglutide. How you use it, the weight loss results and the dose are some of the differences between the two weight loss injections.
There has been lots of media attention around the drug ‘Ozempic’ and its weight loss benefits. This drug also contains semaglutide but is licensed for managing blood sugar levels in type 2 diabetes patients, however, the new anticipated semaglutide marketed under the name, ‘Wegovy’ is licensed for weight loss. Confused? Not to worry, we’ll take you through how Wegovy came to be, and more importantly, how it differs from the widely used Saxenda.
What is Wegovy?
Wegovy is a weight loss injection used by those who are overweight or obese and are at risk of serious weight-related health conditions such as cardiovascular disease. As mentioned, Wegovy is the same drug as Ozempic, and whilst Ozempic is prescribed for type 2 diabetes it has proved to reduce weight effectively, hence the development of Wegovy which is prescribed for weight loss.
Wegovy vs Saxenda
There has been another weight loss injection around for a while now, this is known as Saxenda. Both Saxenda and Wegovy are manufactured by Novo Nordisk, a company that specialises in researching and developing treatments for chronic diseases such as diabetes, obesity, rare bleeding disorders and growth hormone-related disorders.
Saxenda is a weight loss injection that uses your body's natural response to food to help you lose weight. The active ingredient in Saxenda is a medicine called liraglutide and it works by acting on the receptors in the brain which control your appetite. Our body regulates feelings of hunger by producing a hormone called glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1). This hormone is released after a meal and lets your brain know that you are full.
Saxenda mimics the function of GLP-1 to regulate appetite which can help you to eat fewer calories and lose weight. Wegovy works in the same way, and just like Saxenda, it should be used in conjunction with a healthy, reduced-calorie diet and an exercise regime in order to lose weight.
Whilst there are some similarities, there are also some major differences which we will explore in this guide.
6 differences between Wegovy and Saxenda
1. How much weight you could lose
The introduction of Wegovy is revolutionary because of how effective semaglutide is at reducing weight compared to liraglutide. In clinical trials, Wegovy reduced weight by 15% whilst Saxenda reduces weight by 5%.
2. How often you will need to inject
Many first time patients wonder how to take Wegovy and Saxenda, but both medicines are administered via injection. You will need to inject yourself, and although the needles are ultra-fine and almost painless, some people may find it difficult to inject on a daily basis as is the case with Saxenda. With Wegovy, you only need to inject your dose of semaglutide once a week. Semaglutide is a longer-acting GLP-1 receptor agonist compared with Liraglutide, this is why it doesn't need to be injected as often.
Because of this, semaglutide is a more convenient option for patients.
3. The side effects
Many of the side effects are the same with both drugs. Nausea is one of the most common symptoms that can occur when first starting Saxenda or Wegovy but this should ease over time, and there are things you can do to help this such as eating slowly, eating bland foods, avoiding lying down after eating and getting fresh air.
The titration dosing aims to minimise Wegovy’s side effects, it gives your body a chance to get used to the drug as you gradually increase the dose. However, Wegovy reaches a higher dose than Saxenda which may bring more side effects. Hair loss has been reported in patients who had dramatic weight loss with Wegovy.
4. How quickly you'll increase your dose
Typically, you’ll increase your dose weekly with Saxenda over a period of 5 weeks, whereas the titration period is slower with Wegovy dosing. You’ll increase your dose monthly when taking Wegovy and your prescriber will review your dose every four weeks.
See the comparisons below:
Week 1 - 0.6mg once a day
Week 2 - 1.2mg once a day
Week 3 - 1.8mg once a day
Week 4 - 2.4mg once a day
Week 5 - 3mg once a day
Month 1 (weeks 1-4) - 0.25mg each week
Month 2 (weeks 5-8) - 0.5mg each week
Month 3 (weeks 9-12) - 1mg each week
Month 4 (weeks 13-16) - 1.7mg each week
Month 5 (week 17 and onward) - 2.4mg each week
5. The active ingredient
Semaglutide and liraglutide are GLP-1 receptor agonists. Although they work in the same way by mimicking our natural appetite hormones so you feel fuller and eat fewer calories, semaglutide works for longer in the body which is why you only need to inject it once a week.
Cost is a big factor when deciding which weight loss injection is suitable for you. The cost of Saxenda starts from £51 for one pen and you’ll typically need 5 pens a month when you’ve gone through the titration process. Wegovy pens start at £149, with the cost increasing as the doses get higher. However, you'll only need one pen per month with Wegovy as each pen contains enough for 4 doses, one injected each week.
Both liraglutide and semaglutide are now available on the NHS but it’s limited. The NHS Tier 3 Weight Management Service has approved their use in patients who have a BMI of 35 or above and have a comorbidity present such as heart disease. This limits the number of people who would be eligible for free Saxenda or Wegovy and many people will need to fund this treatment themselves. You also can’t get this treatment from your regular GP, it would need to be prescribed by a specialist weight management service.
As we've established, Wegovy and Saxenda have different active ingredients but they belong to the same group of medicines known as GLP-1 receptor agonists. Whilst they work in the same way to manage obesity by reducing appetite so that fewer calories are consumed which should result in weight loss, the experience of using these drugs is different. Weekly injections with a higher success rate may be the most beneficial option for a lot of people.