Saxenda is a treatment used to support weight loss alongside healthy eating and lifestyle choices. It works by helping to reduce your appetite and make you feel fuller for longer. You inject Saxenda under the skin using an injection pen (don’t worry, it’s easier than it sounds). Find more guidance below on this and answers to other frequently asked questions about using this treatment.
Saxenda (liraglutide) aids weight loss by helping you feel fuller, reducing hunger levels and cravings, resulting in improved control of eating habits.
Its active ingredient is liraglutide, which is a synthetic version of the naturally occurring hormone Glucagon-Like Peptide 1 (GLP-1). GLP-1 plays an important role in regulating appetite and calorie intake. After eating, GLP-1 is released from the gut to help regulate your blood sugar levels and reduce the amount of glucagon in your body. As a result, it slows down the emptying of your stomach and makes you feel fuller for longer.
Saxenda comes in a 3ml pre-filled weight loss injection pen, containing 18mg of Saxenda. All weight loss pens are supplied with the right quantity of needles you need for injecting.
Saxenda is given by a simple injection once a day, and is designed for you to inject yourself. Watch the below training video and take a little time to ensure you are confident both to inject yourself and to set the right dose.
The best places for injection are areas with the most fat, such as your tummy (not within 5cm of your belly button), the front of your thighs or your upper arms. It’s important to change injection sites regularly. Do not inject into a blood vessel.
You should follow the advice that your doctor or pharmacist gives you. A common schedule would be to start by using 0.6mg of Saxenda each day and then increase the dose on a weekly basis in intervals of 0.6mg as shown below until you reach the maximum maintenance dose of 3mg. The dose is never increased any quicker than this.
WEEK 1: inject 0.6mg daily
WEEK 2: inject 1.2mg daily
WEEK 3: inject 1.8mg daily
WEEK 4: inject 2.4mg daily
WEEK 5 onwards: inject 3mg daily (maximum maintenance dose)
If you experience any side effects, you should not increase the dose you are using until they have settled. Extra needles are supplied to allow for this possibility.
If you accidentally inject more Saxenda than you should, you must contact a doctor. You may experience nausea or vomiting and may require medical treatment.
The manufacturer advises if more than 72 hours (three days) passes between doses, you should return to the beginning of the treatment plan, starting again at 0.6mg and working up through the doses on a weekly basis.
In our experience, many patients who have taken a break of up to a week can usually tolerate going back to the dose they were on. If you do this and experience side effects such as vomiting or diarrhoea, please drop down to the starting dose of 0.6mg, and work up through the dose titration schedule.
Your starter pack of three pens will last 30 days, allowing you to work your way up through the dosage schedule to reach the 3mg maximum dose.
The amount of time each pen will last during this first month should work out as below if you’re following the recommended dosage increase without needing to return to a lower dosage (see side effects page):
Pen 1 = 17 days
Pen 2 = 7 days
Pen 3 = 6 days
On an ongoing basis on the 3mg daily dose, each pen will last 6 days. So five Saxenda pens will be enough for 30 days (around one month).
Each Saxenda pre-filled pen should be stored in a fridge (2°C to 8°C) before first use. Once you start using the pen, you can keep it for one month either at room temperature (2 to 30°C) or in a fridge (2°C to 8°C). Do not freeze.
While using Saxenda you may find that weight loss fluctuates from week to week. This is completely normal. On average, weight loss of 1-2 pounds (roughly 0.5 to 1kg) per week is expected.
Aim to stick to the suggested dosage increase schedule up to the maximum dose of 3mg a day (as long as you’re not experiencing any strong or severe side effects). This has been shown to achieve the most weight loss by 16 weeks.
A key part of weight loss is behaviour change. For example, understanding your relationship with food, learning how to deal with cravings and sticking with an eating plan are important factors in being able to lose weight successfully and keep it off for the long term.
To boost your weight loss with Saxenda try to reduce your calorie intake by 500 calories per day. This can be by cutting out certain foods (such as sugars and fats) or reducing portion size.
We can also support you on your weight loss journey. Join our live weekly webinars (or watch the replays) for free weight loss support from our team of doctor-led experts.
We advise you to limit alcohol intake while using Saxenda.
One of the ways that Saxenda works is by delaying gastric emptying (the time it takes food to empty out of your stomach). So you may find that alcohol affects you differently to normal. The effects of excess alcohol consumption such as nausea, vomiting or headache are also common side effects of Saxenda. It wouldn’t be advisable to increase these effects by combining the two.
The NHS guidance on alcohol consumption is to limit drinking to 14 units per week, and to spread this out over a few days.
Limiting alcohol also helps reduce calorie intake, which will therefore help towards weight loss.
We recommend you stop using Saxenda one month before you start trying for a pregnancy. Ideally, you’ll be at a weight you’re happy with before trying. A BMI of 30 or less increases chances of becoming pregnant and having a successful outcome.
Saxenda is not to be used during pregnancy or breastfeeding. Weight loss during pregnancy is not beneficial. A minimum weight gain, and no weight loss, is recommended for all pregnant women, including those who are already overweight or obese, due to the necessary weight gain that occurs in maternal tissues during pregnancy.
We advise you to wait at least 3 months after delivery or c-section before starting Saxenda as the body goes through a lot of physical and psychological changes. To really benefit from Saxenda it is better to start when your body is more stable, and you have time to put into action any lifestyle changes that can help you lose weight and keep it off for the long term.
When travelling abroad with Saxenda we advise the following:
As with all medicines, taking Saxenda may cause some side effects. These are usually mild and likely to lessen or disappear within two weeks of starting treatment.
Still, we understand it can be a difficult time as your body adjusts to the new medicine and you have to deal with uncomfortable side effects. We’re here to help you through this transitional period as you work towards your weight loss goals.
Visit our dedicated page for advice on managing side effects. And, don’t forget, if you are concerned about anything or need any more support, we’re just a message away.
Some of the most common Saxenda side effects include: heartburn; nausea or vomiting; diarrhoea; constipation; increased heart rate; increased risk of gallstones; hypoglycaemia (low blood sugar); lightheadedness; feeling of intense hunger; feeling sick and shaky.
There is the potential for some more severe side effects that could require stopping treatment and seeking medical attention. Please visit our dedicated side effects page to read more about these.
Page last reviewed by: Dr. Christina Hennessey 20/04/2022