Saxenda® (liraglutide) is a safe, FDA-approved GLP-1 medication prescribed for weight loss. It is one of several GLP-1 receptor agonists prescribed by Calibrate doctors as a part of Calibrate’s Metabolic Reset.
Find out how Saxenda® works, how it compares to other GLP-1s in terms of weight loss, and what to expect when taking the drug: Read on for everything you need to know.
Saxenda® is a once-daily subcutaneous injectable glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1) medication indicated for use in adults with excess weight who also have weight-related medical problems or obesity, to help them lose weight and keep the weight off.
Saxenda® is manufactured by Novo Nordisk, the same company that makes GLP-1s Wegovy® and Ozempic® (both semaglutide). Liraglutide, the active ingredient in Saxenda®, is also prescribed for patients with type 2 diabetes under the brand name Victoza®.
When used in combination with healthy modifications to food intake and exercise, Saxenda® can help patients with weight loss and longer-term weight management.
Like other GLP-1 drugs, Saxenda® (liraglutide) works by mimicking the natural incretin hormones that your body produces.
Incretin hormones are released whenever food is consumed and help promote a feeling of fullness by delaying gastric emptying and activating the satiety centers of the brain. They also improve insulin production in the pancreas and suppress glucagon production, both of which help normalize blood sugar.
All of this happens in a glucose-dependent manner, which means incretin hormones—or their imitators, i.e. GLP-1 receptor agonists—are unlikely to cause hypoglycemia.
You may be wondering, if your body produces incretin hormones naturally, why are GLP-1 agonists needed? Studies have found that people with overweight or obesity may have a reduction in incretin hormone levels, particularly if they have had frequent weight fluctuations due to yo-yo dieting. GLP-1 receptor agonist medications makes up for some of that loss in incretin hormones, making it easier to reach your goals and lower your metabolic set point.
In addition, GLP-1 medications can improve blood sugar levels in people living with impaired glucose tolerance or diabetes.
As is the case with all GLP-1s, Saxenda® makes it easier to lose weight and stick to healthy habits—but it doesn’t produce weight loss on its own. It must be used in combination with other tactics to support metabolic health and avoid weight regain. These tactics may include modifications to what you eat, how and when you exercise, and other healthy lifestyle changes.
Calibrate’s Metabolic Reset combines GLP-1 medication with evidence-based lifestyle recommendations to help participants maximize their success with Saxenda®. They’re called the Four Pillars of Metabolic Health, and they include:
Throughout your Calibrate program, you’ll work your way through a curriculum developed by a world-class medical advisory board that teaches you how to integrate healthy changes into your day-to-day routine, taking a science-based approach to weight loss. You’ll learn how to improve sleep quality, eat more whole foods and fewer fast-digesting carbohydrates, participate in at least 150 minutes of physical activity per week, and develop tactics for managing stressors.
Through the Calibrate curriculum, both your mind and body will be set up for sustainable progress—allowing Saxenda® (or any other GLP-1 drug you might be prescribed) to work even more effectively.
Saxenda® dosing schedule
Saxenda® (liraglutide) is injected once daily. Your Calibrate doctor will work with you to determine your specific dosing schedule, but the typical recommended starting dosage is 0.6 mg per day for 1 week. After that initial week, doses titrate up by another 0.6 mg per week until the full maintenance dose of 3 mg is reached. You will use a different injection pen as the doses increase.
Saxenda® does not need to be taken at any specific time of day. According to the manufacturer, “Once-daily Saxenda® [...] can be taken at any time, independent of meals. Saxenda® is administered by subcutaneously injecting into the abdomen, thigh, or upper arm. The injection site and timing can be changed without dose adjustment.”
Keep in mind that all GLP-1 doses are set and monitored by your Calibrate doctor. Your dose of Saxenda® may be adjusted to help you meet your blood sugar, weight loss, and metabolic health goals while minimizing side effects, which affect everyone differently.
Calibrate doctors prescribe GLP-1 medications because research shows that, in combination with accountability coaching, they are the most effective and safe long-term medication for weight loss. Clinical trials of Saxenda® found that it produces clinically meaningful weight loss of ≥5%.
While other, somewhat newer drugs in the GLP-1 class have been found to produce greater weight loss in head-to-head clinical trials, that doesn’t mean one particular drug is objectively better. Every drug or medication will affect you, an individual, slightly differently than it affects others. It could be that Saxenda® is the best GLP-1 for your unique biology.
All decisions regarding which medication you are prescribed as a part of your Metabolic Reset will be discussed with and ultimately elected by your Calibrate medical team.
Unfortunately, all GLP-1 medications on the market in the USA come with a hefty price tag. However, some health insurance providers may cover certain GLP-1s including Saxenda®. The amount of coverage, if available, will vary from plan to plan.
It’s helpful to note that Saxenda® is a brand-name-only medication—meaning there’s no generic alternative. On average, the drug retails for around $1,600 per month. When you join Calibrate, we’ll work with your commercial or employer insurance to help get your medication covered for $25/month or less.
The GLP-1 medications currently available to Calibrate members include Mounjaro®, Wegovy®, Ozempic®, Rybelsus®, Saxenda®, and Trulicity®. Calibrate doctors will prescribe whichever medication will work best for you based on your unique needs, medical conditions, and health insurance coverage.
When you join Calibrate, you’ll complete a Comprehensive Health Intake, including blood work, that your Calibrate doctor will carefully review before customizing your treatment plan and prescribing your medication. You may be eligible for liraglutide even if you are already taking another type 2 diabetes medication such as metformin.
If your Calibrate medical team determines that Saxenda® is the right fit for you, they’ll walk you through all of the details on dosage, how to administer the medication, when to take it, and how it will work alongside your metabolic reset plan.
Most people taking GLP-1 medication experience few side effects. However, the most common side effects are mild and tend to improve with time. The most common side effects of Saxenda® in adults include:
Rarely, Saxenda® may cause increased resting heart rate. If you develop palpitations please alert your Calibrate Medical Team and bring this to the attention of your healthcare provider. Additionally, If you have severe abdominal pain or other serious side effects while taking Saxenda®, seek emergency medical services and contact your Calibrate doctor right away.
Saxenda® is FDA-approved and is safe when used as prescribed. As with all prescription medications, there are warnings and contraindications to keep in mind prior to starting treatment with Saxenda®. Your Calibrate doctor will discuss these with you and can answer any specific questions you might have about the risks of Saxenda® as it pertains to your own health and medical history.
The below limitations, contraindications, and warnings are sourced directly from the FDA.
Limitations of use:
Saxenda® contains liraglutide and should not be co-administered with other liraglutide-containing products or with any other GLP-1 receptor agonist.
The safety and effectiveness of Saxenda® in pediatric patients with type 2 diabetes have not been established.
The safety and efficacy of Saxenda® in combination with other products intended for weight loss have not been established.
Personal or family history of medullary thyroid carcinoma or in patients with Multiple Endocrine Neoplasia syndrome type 2.
Known hypersensitivity to liraglutide or any of the excipients in Saxenda®.
Black Box Warning:
In rodents, liraglutide causes dose-dependent and treatment-duration-dependent thyroid C-cell tumors including medullary thyroid cancer, at clinically relevant exposures. In humans, the relevance of liraglutide-induced rodent thyroid C-cell tumors has not been determined.
Saxenda® is contraindicated in patients with a personal or family history of MTC or in patients with multiple endocrine neoplasia syndrome type 2.
Patients should be advised of the potential risk for MTC with liraglutide and the possible symptoms of thyroid tumors (eg, a mass in the neck, dysphagia, dyspnea, persistent hoarseness).
Routine monitoring of serum calcitonin or using thyroid ultrasound is of uncertain value for early detection of MTC in patients treated with liraglutide.
In rare cases, Saxenda® may cause more serious side effects. These may include:
- Inflammation of the pancreas (pancreatitis)
- Gallbladder problems
- Increased risk of low blood sugar (hypoglycemia) in adults with type 2 diabetes who also take medicines to treat type 2 diabetes such as sulfonylureas or insulin
- Increased heart rate
- Kidney problems (kidney failure)
- Serious allergic reactions: Stop using Saxenda® and get medical help right away if you have any symptoms of a serious allergic reaction including swelling of your face, lips, tongue, or throat, fainting or feeling dizzy, very rapid heartbeat, problems breathing or swallowing, or severe rash or itching
- Depression or thoughts of suicide