The Independent Pharmacy

Wegovy vs Saxenda: Which Weight Loss Treatment is Better?

Andy Boysan
Andy BoysanBPharmDirector & Superintendent Pharmacist

Reviewed on 29 Mar 2024

Anyone who struggles to maintain a healthy body mass will know that losing weight (and keeping it off) is far from easy, even when there’s no underlying medical condition preventing you from shedding excess pounds. The truth is that there are no quick fixes or miracle cures; effective weight loss requires dedication, perseverance, and persistence.

If you do have a medical condition that leads you to gain excess weight, though (or if you have a particularly high BMI), those qualities alone might not be enough. Fortunately, a number of weight loss treatments (including weight loss capsules and injections) are available in the UK, and they can help those struggling with weight-related issues to lose weight more effectively.

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Two treatments recently approved for use in the UK fall into the latter category of weight loss injections: Wegovy and Saxenda. Similar in many ways, these two weight loss medications may prove equally effective at aiding weight loss, but there are some fundamental differences between the two.

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In this guide, we’ll explore the similarities and distinctions between these two injection-based weight loss treatments, and help you to determine whether Saxenda or Wegovy is better for you.

What is Wegovy and how does it work?

Wegovy is an injectable weight loss treatment that contains the active ingredient semaglutide, a synthetic version of the hormone called GLP-1 which is involved in regulating appetite. It’s designed for those with a body mass index (BMI) of at least 27 (particularly when accompanied by a weight-related health issue) and is injected once weekly to help aid and accelerate weight loss.

Wegovy works by mimicking the effects of GLP-1 in the body; this hormone is responsible for telling the brain when you’re full and helps to control appetite and reduce overeating while also managing blood sugar levels. By making them feel fuller, it encourages users to eat less and therefore consume fewer calories. Studies suggest that Wegovy may help you to lose at least 15% of your body weight.

What is Saxenda and how does it work?

Like Wegovy, Saxenda is a weight loss medication that is administered via injection. Its active ingredient is liraglutide, which is also a GLP-1 receptor agonist that helps to control appetite by promoting a feeling of fullness. It’s designed for those who are obese (especially in cases where this is caused by a medical condition) and is injected every day to boost weight loss alongside a calorie-controlled diet.

Liraglutide, in much the same way as semaglutide, suppresses appetite and controls blood sugar levels by producing the same effect as naturally occurring GLP-1, the hormone involved in communicating to the brain that you’re full. This leads to a reduced overall calorie intake, which can help those with weight issues to shed the excess weight quicker. Over a 56-week timeframe, one study found that those taking Saxenda lost between 12 and 23 pounds.

Is Wegovy the same as Saxenda?

Wegovy and Saxenda are very similar weight loss medications in that they’re both designed to mimic the GLP-1 hormone which tells us when we’re full. However, one area in which these two medications differ is in their active ingredients: Wegovy contains semaglutide, while Saxenda’s main active compound is liraglutide. These agents are distinct, though they function similarly in the treatment of diabetes and obesity.

Another of the differences between Wegovy and Saxenda is the frequency at which injections are administered; Wegovy is injected once weekly (typically with the dosage increasing each month), while Saxenda involves daily injections, with the dosage gradually building every week.

Though the active ingredients and injection schedules are different, these two weight loss injection treatments effectively work in exactly the same way. By producing effects similar to those of the natural hormone GLP-1, both Wegovy and Saxenda help the brain to recognise feelings of fullness: in doing so, they contribute to regulating appetite, controlling blood sugar levels, and promoting metabolic health and weight loss.

Both treatments are designed for those with a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or above, or those with a BMI of at least 27 who also have a weight-related health condition such as high blood pressure, diabetes, or high cholesterol. Wegovy and Saxenda are both manufactured by Novo Nordisk and are approved for use in the UK by the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA).

Is Wegovy more effective for weight loss than Saxenda?

It's important to note that, as with most medications, effectiveness may differ from person to person; certain individuals may experience more effective weight loss using Wegovy, while others may find that Saxenda works better — your medical history and current health situation will be determining factors here. That said, some clinical trials have indicated that Wegovy may be more effective at boosting weight loss than Saxenda.

For example, one randomised study indicated that semaglutide (the active ingredient in Wegovy) resulted in greater weight loss in obese and overweight adults than liraglutide (Saxenda’s active compound) over a 68-week period. This doesn’t necessarily mean that Wegovy will be more effective for you, of course, so you should discuss your medical history and preferences with your GP before considering taking one over the other.

Can you use Wegovy and Saxenda together?

The ingredients in Wegovy and Saxenda — semaglutide and liraglutide respectively — are not considered safe for concurrent use, so it’s not advisable to use these two treatments together. As they perform the same action, taking Wegovy and Saxenda simultaneously would not improve or speed up weight loss in any case. Speak to your GP or pharmacist to determine which treatment is right for you.

Wegovy or Saxenda: which is right for me?

Both Wegovy and Saxenda are suitable for those with a BMI of 30 or over (or 27 or over if accompanied by other weight-associated medical conditions). Since they work in the same way, deciding which one to take is often a matter of personal choice; though, of course, you should discuss your situation thoroughly with your doctor so they can determine whether Wegovy or Saxenda might be more suited to your needs.

One of the primary differences between Saxenda and Wegovy is that the former is injected once every day, while the latter involves weekly injections. This may be a factor in whether Wegovy or Saxenda is a more appropriate weight loss treatment for you; those with very busy lifestyles or who dislike receiving injections, for example, may prefer Wegovy due to the fact that injections are less frequent.

It's also important to consider that both Wegovy and Saxenda can introduce side effects, although not everyone will experience them. Though the two treatments share many of the same potential adverse reactions, users of each treatment may experience different side effects while taking them, which may impact which medication is considered more appropriate.

The most common side effects of Wegovy include:

  • Nausea, diarrhoea, or vomiting.
  • Constipation.
  • Abdominal pain or an upset stomach.
  • Headaches.
  • Tiredness.
  • Dizziness.
  • Bloatedness, heartburn, belching, or flatulence.
  • Reactions at the injection site (bruising, redness, or irritation).

The most common side of Saxenda include:

  • Nausea, diarrhoea, or vomiting.
  • Constipation.
  • Abdominal pain or an upset stomach.
  • Headaches.
  • Tiredness.
  • Dizziness.
  • Gallstones.
  • Low blood sugar (hypoglycaemia).
  • An altered sense of taste.
  • Reactions at the injection site (bruising, redness, or irritation).

If you’re concerned about any potential side effects, speak to your GP or pharmacist before taking either Saxenda or Wegovy.

Where can I buy Wegovy and Saxenda?

Both Saxenda and Wegovy are available to buy online in the UK through The Independent Pharmacy. You’ll need to complete a short online health consultation before you can purchase the treatment, so one of our medical professionals can assess your needs and determine whether it’s appropriate for you to use.

Once your medical assessment is complete, your weight loss medication will be delivered securely and discreetly to your UK address as soon as the next working day. Complete your online consultation now by visiting either the Wegovy or Saxenda product pages.

Alternative weight loss treatments

If you need to lose weight but you’re not keen on the idea of a weight loss injection (perhaps needles aren’t your thing, for instance), you can explore other treatment options. In most cases, the first recommended course of action is to make healthy lifestyle changes, while you may also consider weight loss tablets as an alternative method.

Weight loss capsules

Weight loss capsules such as Orlistat and Xenical work by preventing up to a third of the fat you consume from being absorbed into your body, hence reducing your overall calorie intake and enabling you to lose weight faster. Chemically, these two treatment options are exactly the same (they both contain orlistat as their active ingredient): Xenical is simply the branded version of generic Orlistat.

Alli slimming capsules work in a similar way (they also contain orlistat and prevent the body from absorbing fat) and may help to boost weight loss by up to 50% per week. Like Orlistat and Xenical, Alli capsules are designed to be taken as part of a low-calorie diet.

If you have a BMI of at least 28 and you’d like to explore Orlistat, Xenical or Alli capsules as a weight loss option, speak to your GP to ensure it’s the right course of action for you. Alternatively, you can purchase any of these weight loss tablets online through The Independent Pharmacy after completing a short online health consultation.

Lifestyle changes

Weight loss treatments such as injections and capsules are typically prescribed to people with a very high body mass index (BMI) who have struggled to lose weight through other methods, or those whose weight gain is caused by a medical condition.

If neither of these scenarios apply but you wish to lose weight, it’s recommended that you incorporate healthy lifestyle habits into your daily routine to help you shed excess pounds. It’s also important to practise good habits in addition to any weight loss medication you may be taking. Healthy weight loss habits include:

  • Adjusting your portions. Try to limit your portion sizes to ensure you’re not overeating. A portion of pasta, rice, cereal, vegetables, and fruit, for example, should be about the size of your clenched fist, while meat portions should be around the size of the palm of your hand.
  • Developing a food schedule. It’s important to distribute your calories even throughout the day to manage your hunger levels and instil good eating habits. Try not to eat breakfast before 10am or have dinner later than 8pm, for instance.
  • Eating more slowly. When you eat quickly, it can be difficult for your body to recognise when you’re full. Eating more slowly will help you to know when you’ve had enough, lowering the chance of overeating.
  • Getting more protein. Protein takes a long time for the body to digest, meaning it can keep you fuller for longer and reduce cravings. Try to incorporate protein-rich foods such as lean meats, fatty fish, eggs, and Greek yoghurt into your diet.
  • Exercising more regularly. Try to engage in at least 150 minutes of moderate physical activity each week, which may include walking briskly, running, swimming, or strength conditioning.
  • Staying hydrated. Dehydration can often be mistaken for hunger, so ensure you’re consuming plenty of water while limiting the amount of fizzy or sugary drinks you consume.
  • Getting plenty of sleep. When you’re tired, you’re more likely to reach for high-fat or sugary snacks to boost your energy, so ensuring you get at least 7 hours of sleep each night may help to aid weight loss.

For more advice on lifestyle-related ways to shed excess weight, check out our advice on easy ways to lose weight at home or our safe weight loss guide, where we explore some of the most common myths surrounding weight loss.

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