If you struggle to lose weight and are finding that a healthy eating plan and regular physical activity are not enough to help you lose weight or keep it off, you might be interested in medications to help you. There are a number of both prescription and over-the-counter medications that are recommended for weight loss, although their effectiveness and side effects vary. A new class of medication is now available to help with weight loss. And it just so happens that this class of medication is also used to treat diabetes. Read on to learn more.
If you have type 2 diabetes, there’s a good chance that you might be taking a class of medication called a GLP-1 (glucagon-like peptide 1) inhibitor. Drugs in this class include Ozempic (semaglutide), Trulicity (dulaglutide), Byetta (exenatide), Bydureon BCise (exenatide), Victoza (liraglutide), Adlyxin (lixisenatide) and Rybelsus (semaglutide).
With the exception of Rybelsus, these are non-insulin injectable medicines that replace a hormone called glucagon-like peptide, which is low in people who have type 2 diabetes. GLP-1s work by slowing down stomach emptying, reducing glucagon release from the liver (glucagon is a hormone that raises blood sugar), increasing release of insulin from the pancreas, and promoting a feeling of fullness so that you may lose weight.
The benefits of these medicines are:
- Improved blood sugar levels
- A lower risk of heart attack and stroke
- Weight loss
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What is Saxenda and how does it work?
Saxenda (liraglutide) is a prescription medicine that’s indicated for adults with:
- Obesity (a BMI of 30 or higher)
- Overweight (a BMI of 27 or higher who also have type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, and/or high cholesterol)
This is an injected medicine that is taken once a day using a pen (similar to an insulin pen). Dosing starts at 0.6 milligrams (mg) daily, and over the next four weeks, is increased to the full dose of 3 mg. Saxenda is used along with a lower-calorie eating plan and physical activity to promote weight loss.
Saxenda is the same medicine as the brand name Victoza; however, Saxenda is given in a higher dosage and, unlike Victoza, it’s approved to help with weight loss. It’s not approved for treating high blood sugar in people who have type 2 diabetes, but it can be prescribed for weight loss for people with type 2 diabetes.
According to Saxenda’s website, “3 out of 5 people taking Saxenda achieved significant weight loss of 5% or more” (an average of 12 pounds) and “1 out of 3 people taking Saxenda achieved significant weight loss of more than 10%” (an average of 23 pounds). About 6% of people lost 20% or more of their weight (an average of 47 pounds). People prescribed Saxenda can stay on this long-term, barring any significant side effects.
Like other GLP-1 inhibitors, the most common side effect of Saxenda is nausea. Other possible side effects include:
- Stomach pain
- Low blood sugar
Serious side effects are pancreatitis, gallbladder problems, and allergic reaction.
For many people, the benefits of this medication outweigh the possible side effects; however, you and your health care provider should weigh the risks and benefits to decide if this is right for you.
What is Wegovy and how does it work?
Wegovy (semaglutide), the newest weight-loss medication to be approved, is prescribed for the same indications as Saxenda. Wegovy is the same medication as Ozempic, which is used to treat type 2 diabetes, but it’s a higher-dose form of semaglutide.
This medication is injected once weekly starting with 0.25 mg for one month, and then increased over the next four months to a full dose of 2.4 mg. And it should be used along with a healthy eating plan and regular physical activity to promote weight loss. Wegovy can be used long-term as long as it is beneficial for weight or weight maintenance and is not causing significant side effects.
According to Wegovy’s website, people with obesity or excess weight in a 68-week study lost about 15% of their body weight, or about 35 pounds.
Side effects are the same as for Saxenda.
Which is better, Saxenda or Wegovy?
Since Saxenda and Wegovy are both GLP-1 inhibitors, they work in the same way to promote weight loss. However, a major difference between these two drugs (both are made by Novo Nordisk) is that Wegovy is a once-weekly injection, while Saxenda must be taken every day.
In addition, some research indicates that Wegovy leads to greater weight loss than Saxenda. And, Novo Nordisk is working on a pill form of Wegovy, too, which could improve adherence.
It’s exciting that two more medications have entered the weight-loss landscape. However, Saxenda and Wegovy are not magic pills (or injections). Some factors to consider before deciding to take either one of these medications include:
- Willingness to give yourself an injection either daily or weekly and to take the medication long term.
- Tolerance of side effects, including nausea.
- History or family history of medullary thyroid cancer or multiple endocrine neoplasia type 2.
- Being pregnant or planning a pregnancy in the near future.
- If you have diabetes, you may need to have your diabetes medicines adjusted to lower the risk of low blood sugar (hypoglycemia).
- Insurance coverage. Note that your health plan may or may not cover either of these medications; even if they do, you may have a high co-pay for them.
Of course, you’ll also need to talk with your health care provider about taking these or any prescription weight-loss medication.
Want to learn more about weight management? Read “Tried and True Weight-Loss Techniques,” “Losing Weight Without Feeling Hungry: Eight Tips,” and “Seven Ways to Lose Weight.”