What is Saxenda?
Saxenda (liraglutide) is a glucagon-like peptide-1 agonist medication that comes in the form of a subcutaneous injection to be used by individuals that are overweight or obese to help them reduce their appetite and manage their weight for the long term. This medication is used alongside an increase in the patient’s physical activity levels as well as dietary changes to assist them in losing weight or managing their weight based on the specific circumstances for which this medication was prescribed.
How is Saxenda Used?
This medication is injected underneath the skin (subcutaneously) once per day and used alongside changes to a patient’s dietary habits and level of physical activity to assist them in losing and managing their weight.
Unused and new Saxenda pens should be stored in the refrigerator between the temperatures of 36°F (2°C) and 46°F (8°C). This medication should never be frozen, and if accidental freezing of this medication does occur, it should not be used afterward.
Once an injection pen has been used, it may continue to be stored in the refrigerator, or you may store it at room temperature, keeping it within the temperature range of 59°F (15°C) to 86°F (30°C). However, this medication should be stored away from heat and light. The pen should also not be stored with a needle installed and ready for use. Patients should remove any used needles, replace the cap of the pen, and store the pen without installing a new needle until it is time for the medication to be administered again.
These injection pens should be disposed of after 30 days have passed since their first use.
Keep this medication out of the reach of children at all times.
Saxenda is prescribed to help patients regulate their appetite and lose weight easier alongside changes in their dietary habits and physical activity levels.
How Does Saxenda Work?
As a human glucagon-like peptide medication, Saxenda functions by reducing a patient’s appetite, allowing them to reduce their daily calorie intake and lose weight more efficiently. This medication also slows down digestion, allowing patients to have a sensation of feeling “full” for a longer period of time, further reducing appetite and the likelihood of excessive food consumption. Individuals using this medication will have their body’s glucose and insulin levels decrease as well, which further contributes to weight loss and the efficacy of this medication.
These prefilled injection pens contain 18 mg of liraglutide per 3 mL of solution.
The pens may have the administered dose of each injection adjusted by setting the pen to inject the following amounts:
This medication should be injected daily, and patients just beginning treatment with Saxenda will start with a daily dose of 0.6 mg. Each week, the dosage should be gradually increased to avoid the occurrence of side effects and allow the patient to adjust to the medication at a steady pace.
In general, patients will inject a daily dose of 1.2 mg during their second week of using Saxenda, a daily dose of 1.8 mg during their third week of use, a daily dose of 2.4 mg during their fourth week of use, and a daily dose of 3 mg during their fifth week of use and beyond.
If an overdose of this medication has occurred or is suspected, patients should contact their physician or their local Poison Control Center. If an overdose has occurred and the individual experiences serious side effects such as losing consciousness or becoming unable to breathe, emergency medical attention should be sought immediately.
The most common side effects of taking Saxenda are as follows, and patients should consult with their prescribing physician if any of these symptoms become severe or remain persistent during treatment:
- a decrease in appetite
- changes in the patient’s sense of taste
- dry mouth
- feeling dizzy
- feeling tired
- injection site irritation (swelling, itching, redness)
- pain or swelling in the abdomen
- sleep difficulties
Some of the following more serious side effects may occur and should be reported to the patient’s prescribing physician immediately:
- changes in heart rhythm
- feeling dizzy
- heart palpitations
- increase in heart rate
- dry skin
- feeling dizzy
- less urine output
- the mouth becomes sticky and dry
- gallstone symptoms
- abdominal pain
- pain between the shoulders
- hypoglycemia (low blood sugar)
- blurry vision
- feeling dizzy
- feeling jittery
- rapid heart rate
- speech difficulties
- tingling or numbness of the tongue or lips
- trouble with concentration
- kidney issues
- blood in the urine
- decrease in urine production
- increase in the frequency of nighttime urination
- skin rash
Please seek emergency medical attention immediately if you are using Saxenda and experience any of the following symptoms:
- abdominal pain (upper right side)
- back pain
- rapid heart rate
- swelling of the abdomen
- severe allergic reaction
- breathing difficulties
- itchy skin rash
- swelling of the throat or face
- severe hypoglycemia (low blood glucose levels)
- becoming disoriented
- losing consciousness
Warnings & Precautions
The use of this medication has been associated with an increased risk of some patients developing breast cancer. Those with a family or personal history of breast cancer or that have any concerns about the potential risks of such a development should discuss this with their physician.
Some patients may experience dehydration at the beginning of treatment due to the common side effects of diarrhea, nausea, and vomiting that occur in those who have just begun using the medication. Patients should contact their physician if they experience dehydration symptoms such as a decrease in urine production, dizziness, headaches, and feeling excessively thirsty.
Depression and Suicidal Ideation
This medication may cause some patients to experience new or worsening depression as well as suicidal ideation and other changes in behavior and mood. If you are using Saxenda and experience psychological changes or notice these changes in another individual that may be using this medication, the prescribing physician of the individual experiencing such shifts in mood and behavior should be informed as soon as possible.
This medication is associated with an increased frequency of gallstones developing in some patients, as gallstone formation is a common occurrence in individuals who experience a rapid or significant amount of weight loss. Patients using this medication that experience any of the following symptoms of gallstones occurring should inform their physician as soon as possible: nausea, pain between the shoulder blades, pain underneath the right shoulder, severe abdominal pain, and vomiting.
Patients above the age of 65 years old may be more likely to experience certain side effects when using this medication compared to other age groups.
This medication is associated with causing an increased heart rate in those using it and may also impact the way in which the heart muscle processes electrical activity. Any individuals with heart disease or a history of abnormal heart rhythm should inform their doctor of such conditions before beginning treatment with this medication, as preexisting heart-related issues may result in the patient requiring additional monitoring during treatment or changes in their dosage of Saxenda.
It has not been determined how safe or effective this medication is in those who have impaired liver function. Patients that have liver disease or impaired hepatic function may require changes in dosage or additional monitoring when using this medication, and impaired liver function may also affect the efficacy of treatment with Saxenda.
Some individuals using this medication may experience a drop in their blood glucose levels, especially those who are taking a sulfonylurea medication to manage high blood glucose levels. Those using Saxenda who experience the following symptoms of low blood sugar levels should contact their physician: cold sweat, confusion, feeling lightheaded, headache, hunger, nervousness, rapid heart rate, shakiness, tingling or numbness of the lips or tongue, or weakness.
Intestinal Tract Issues
It has not been determined how safe or effective this medication may be for those with certain intestinal conditions, such as those who experience slow movement within the intestines as a result of diabetes, those who have ulcerative colitis, or those with Crohn’s disease. Individuals with any health conditions that impact the intestinal tract should inform their physician of this aspect of their medical history before beginning treatment with Saxenda. Changes in the dosage of the medication or additional monitoring of the patient during treatment may be required.
This medication may cause some individuals to experience inflammation of the pancreas. Any patient using this medication that experiences abdominal pain that is persistent or severe, and may or may not be accompanied by vomiting, should inform their prescribing physician of this immediately. Those who have previously experienced pancreatitis should inform their physician of this before beginning treatment, as this factor may impact the dosage and efficacy of the medication and may also require additional monitoring of the patient during treatment.
It has not been determined if this medication is safe or effective in children below the age of 12 years old.
Pregnancy and Breastfeeding
This medication should not be used by patients that are pregnant as its safety and efficacy in these individuals have not been studied. Any individuals using this medication that become pregnant during treatment should inform their prescribing physician as soon as possible.
Additionally, it has not been determined if this medication passes into breast milk. Due to the potential risks of this medication possibly affecting a breastfed child, patients desiring to breastfeed while using this medication should discuss the matter with their physician for further guidance.
It has not been determined how safe or effective this medication is in those who have impaired kidney function. Patients that have kidney disease or impaired renal function may require changes in dosage or additional monitoring when using this medication, and impaired kidney function may also affect the efficacy of treatment with Saxenda.
This medication has been associated with the development of certain thyroid cancers in those who have used it. Individuals with multiple endocrine neoplasia syndrome type 2 or that have a personal or family medical history that includes thyroid cancer should avoid using Saxenda due to a higher risk of potentially developing such conditions.
Speak to your doctor about any medications or herbal supplements you are currently taking before beginning treatment with this medication. Discuss any concerns you may have with your doctor or a trusted pharmacist.
The following medications are known to interact with Saxenda: