Saxenda for Weight Loss

When it comes to weight loss, there are many fad diets and exercise routines to try. But when diet and exercise aren’t enough, there are prescription medications that can be used to help the process. Saxenda is one of these medications, prescribed as a once-daily injectable alongside a healthy lifestyle to help adults lose weight.

Because Saxenda is available by prescription only in Australia, it’s important to understand how it works and how to use it for your individual needs.

What is Saxenda?

Saxenda is the brand name for a drug called liraglutide, a GLP-1 receptor agonist. It is an injectable prescription medication that can be prescribed for weight loss in obese adults. 

For weight loss, Saxenda is prescribed to adults with a Body Mass Index (BMI) of 30 or higher. It can also be prescribed for adults with a BMI of 27 or higher if they have a weight-related condition like pre-diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol or sleep apnea. 

Your BMI is calculated by taking your weight in kilograms and dividing it by your height in centimeters squared, then multiplying it by 10,000. For example, if you are 95kg and 180cm tall, you would use the formula (95kg / 180cm / 180cm) * 10,000 to get the end result of 29 as your BMI. 

How does Saxenda work for weight loss?

Liraglutide and Saxenda were originally developed as a diabetes medication that increases insulin release in the pancreas. However, it also reduces appetite and lowers feelings of hunger, making you feel satiated more quickly.

The hormones that help regulate hunger levels and appetite are called glucagon-like-peptides (GLP-1). Saxenda, a GLP-1 receptor agonist, bonds with the GLP-1 receptors to increase feelings of being full and decreasing hunger in the brain. This can lead to eating fewer calories and, in turn, losing weight.

It’s important to note that using Saxenda or Liraglutide by itself will not work. As part of your program you will need to also adopt a healthy lifestyle through a diet and exercise plan to help you manage the calories you’re consuming against the calories you’re losing when you’re working out. 

Many patients find success using food journals and fitness apps to help track their measurements and meals over the course of treatment.

How effective is Saxenda?

Studies have shown that more than 60% of patients lose at least 5% of their body weight, with about a third of people losing 10% or more. These are people who also adopted lifestyle changes through healthy diet and exercise. 

If there is an initial weight loss of at least 5% of body weight in the first 12 weeks of using the Saxenda injection, then there can be good weight loss outcomes for the first 12 months. However, weight loss is not guaranteed for all patients.

Saxenda side effects

Like any prescription medication, there are some side effects of Saxenda you should be aware of. 

Mild side effects include:
- Nausea
- Diarrhea
- Constipation
- Vomiting
- Injection site reaction
- Headache
- Low blood sugar
- Upset stomach 
- Tiredness or fatigue
- Dizziness
- Stomach pain

More serious side effects are uncommon but can include:
- Inflammation of the pancreas
- Gallstones
- Increased heart rate
- Kidney failure 
- Depression or thoughts of suicide

If you experience any of the above, call 000 immediately. With mental changes in mood and behaviour, talk to your doctor.

Saxenda compared to other weight loss methods

Obesity is a chronic condition that is closely related to many other chronic diseases, such as heart disease, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, sleep apnea, certain cancers, joint diseases and more. That’s why it’s important to maintain your weight and BMI for your health and wellbeing. 

Some common approaches to weight loss include:
- Diet and exercise
- Calorie counting and meal plans
- Fitness trackers
- Over the counter weight loss supplements
- Weight loss programs and support groups
- Personal trainers
- Psychologists and lifestyle coaches
- Dieticians and nutritionists

While these methods can be effective for some people, for others it isn’t enough. That’s where Saxenda comes in - when used alongside a proper diet and exercise regimen, Saxenda can be very effective in helping adults lose up to 10% or more of their body weight. 

Is Saxenda safe?

Yes, Saxenda is safe to use for those who are eligible. Your doctor will review your medical history and previous weight loss journey to determine whether or not it is appropriate to prescribe you this injection. Typically, you will check in with your doctor at the 12 week mark to track your progress thus far and see if it is suitable for you to continue using the medication. Always take note of any side effects and report them to your doctor. 

When it comes to losing weight, we know it isn’t always easy to achieve even with the most dedicated diet and exercise programs. Talk to your doctor if you’re interested in trying Saxenda as part of your weight loss journey.


The New England Journal of Medicine (July 2015) - A Randomized, Controlled Trial of 3.0 mg of Liraglutide in Weight Management
Australian Department of Health (April 2019) - Australian Public Assessment Report for Liraglutide
NPS MedicineWise (June 2021) - Saxenda

ARTG Registered Medications:

Product SAXENDA liraglutide (rys) 6mg/mL solution for injection, pre-filled pen is registered in the ARTG, AUST R

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