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Saxenda Side Effects and How to Manage Them

Side effects of liraglutide
Written by:

Wafaa Amjad Dar

Pharm-D
Reviewer:

Dr. Bradley Noon

MD

Content

Medical Disclaimer
The medications listed on this website are provided for informational purposes only. Their inclusion does not guarantee that they will be prescribed to any individual, as treatment decisions are ultimately at the discretion of healthcare providers. This list is not exhaustive, and healthcare providers may prescribe other medications, including non-stimulant options, based on the patient’s unique health circumstances and needs.Read more
The medications listed on this website are provided for informational purposes only. Their inclusion does not guarantee that they will be prescribed to any individual, as treatment decisions are ultimately at the discretion of healthcare providers. This list is not exhaustive, and healthcare providers may prescribe other medications, including non-stimulant options, based on the patient’s unique health circumstances and needs.

In the era of advanced healthcare, the development of new medications has played a pivotal role in helping individuals overcome or manage different illnesses. However, like any coin has two sides, the benefits of these medications often come hand-in-hand with potential side effects.

Saxenda, a weight loss medication, is no exception and it also has side effects. Read on to learn more about potential adverse reactions associated with this medicine. It will help you have informed communication with your healthcare provider and know how to proactively deal with side effects.

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What Is Saxenda?

Saxenda, the brand version of the active ingredient liraglutide, is a prescription medication. It belongs to a class of drugs called glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1) receptor agonists. It is known to work by mimicking the effects of a naturally occurring hormone in the body, GLP-1, that regulates blood sugar and appetite. It was originally approved for the treatment of type 2 diabetes mellitus, but in 2014 Saxenda was FDA-approved [1*] for additional use in weight management. Saxenda pens are administered subcutaneously in the upper arm, abdomen, or thigh.

Saxenda is prescribed as an adjunct to a reduced-calorie diet and increased physical activity for chronic weight management in adults. Some prerequisites for its use include a body mass index (BMI) of 30 kg/m² or greater, or a BMI of 27 kg/m² or greater with at least one weight-related comorbidity, such as hypertension, type 2 diabetes, or dyslipidemia.

Common Side Effects of Saxenda

Like any medication, Saxenda [2*] is associated with certain side effects, some of which are more commonly reported by users. These include:

  • Nausea and vomiting: These are the most common side effects [3*] reported through clinical trials, especially during the initial period of Saxenda use. This side effect is often transient, and patients reporting nausea declined over time as the body adjusts to the medication. 
  • Diarrhea and constipation: Changes in bowel activity, particularly diarrhea and constipation, are also common side effects of Saxenda. Staying hydrated and modifying diet can sometimes help alleviate this symptom.
  • Other gastrointestinal side effects: Additional gastrointestinal side effects include gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), decreased appetite, heartburn, indigestion, and belching. These effects may contribute to varying degrees of discomfort or changes in digestive patterns.
  • Injection site reactions: Sometimes, patients observe abnormal redness, itching, or a rash at the injection site. While these symptoms may resolve on their own within a day, if they persist, it is advisable to consult a doctor and refrain from administering the injection at the same site.
  • Headache: Headaches are reported by some individuals using Saxenda. It is recommended to properly hydrate and discuss the frequency and intensity of headaches with a healthcare professional.
  • Dizziness: Dizziness may occur, especially when standing up quickly. It’s crucial for users to be cautious and rise slowly from a sitting or lying position to minimize the risk of feeling dizzy.

Mild Side Effects of Saxenda

While the common side effects mentioned earlier are generally not severe and often temporary, there are additional mild side effects of liraglutide that users may encounter:

  • Fatigue: Some patients may experience mild fatigue as the body adjusts to the medication. Adequate rest and regular sleep patterns can help manage this side effect.
  • Abdominal pain: Upper abdominal pain or discomfort may occur in some individuals. If the stomach pain is persistent or severe, consulting a healthcare professional is advised. 
  • Increased heart rate: A mild increase in heart rate has been reported by some users. It’s essential to report any significant changes in heart rate to a healthcare provider.
  • Low blood sugar (hypoglycemia): Saxenda can lower blood sugar levels, and users with diabetes may experience hypoglycemia. Signs of hypoglycemia include excessive shaking, weakness, feeling dizzy, sweating, feeling hungry, confused state, palpitations, etc. Monitor blood sugar levels regularly and contact your healthcare provider to adjust your treatment as needed.
  • Gastroenteritis: It is mainly inflammation of the stomach and intestines and is mostly viral. Symptoms could include abdominal cramps, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. If such gastrointestinal issues persist or become severe, it is crucial to consult with your doctor.

Serious Side Effects of Saxenda

Although this medication is generally well-tolerated, there are potentially severe side effects of Saxenda that require immediate medical attention. These effects are rare but may include:

  • Pancreatitis [4*] : In some cases, inflammation of the pancreas has been reported. Symptoms include severe abdominal pain that may radiate to the back. Immediate medical attention is necessary if these symptoms occur.
  • Gallbladder problems: Saxenda may increase the risk of gallbladder problems, including cholelithiasis [5*] and cholecystitis. Symptoms such as upper abdominal pain, fever, nausea, jaundice, and vomiting should be promptly addressed by a healthcare professional.
  • Thyroid C-cell tumors: There is a risk of thyroid tumors, particularly thyroid C-cell tumors, based on studies in rodents. Look for signs like lump or swelling in your neck, hoarseness, difficulty with swallowing, or shortness of breath.
  • Serious allergic reactions: While rare, severe allergic reactions (anaphylaxis) to Saxenda may occur. Signs include swelling of the face, lips, tongue, or throat, difficulty breathing, and severe itching. Emergency medical attention is essential if these symptoms arise.

How to Monitor Side Effects of Saxenda Better

Despite potential side effects, proactive measures can help mitigate their impact and improve the overall experience with medication: 

  • Risk of thyroid cancer: Regularly monitoring thyroid health, particularly for those with a family history of thyroid tumors, is vital when using Saxenda. Keep open communication with your healthcare provider, sharing any concerns or symptoms related to thyroid health. This helps detect and manage potential issues promptly.
  • Kidney failure: Stay well-hydrated to support your kidneys. Drink plenty of water, especially during physical activity or demanding tasks. Regular kidney function tests during follow-up check-ups can detect potential issues early. Your doctor will recommend a suitable monitoring schedule.
  • Low blood sugar: If you have diabetes, monitor your blood sugar daily to quickly address low levels. If you take diabetes medications, collaborate with your healthcare provider to adjust the Saxenda dose accordingly, preventing hypoglycemia.
  • Nausea: In order to reduce the likelihood of nausea, it is suggested to administer Saxenda when you’re taking your meal. It can help the body acclimate to Saxenda medication more smoothly. Also, staying hydrated throughout the day while avoiding consuming large amounts of liquids at once can alleviate nausea. 
  • Allergic reaction: To prevent allergic reactions, inform your healthcare professional about past allergies and your medical history. Recognizing common signs like facial swelling or difficulty breathing is essential. If you notice these symptoms, seek emergency medical attention promptly for appropriate anti-allergic measures.
Get ongoing support and online medication prescriptions for weight loss if deemed necessary.

How Long Do Side Effects of Saxenda Last?

The duration of Saxenda side effects varies among individuals, depending on specific adverse reactions and the body’s response to the medication. Common Saxenda side effects, such as nausea and gastrointestinal discomfort, often subside within the first few weeks of use as the body adjusts. However, individual responses can vary, and some users may continue to experience side effects for an extended period. 

Serious side effects, though rare, may persist. It is important for individuals to communicate openly with their healthcare provider regarding the duration and severity of any side effects they may encounter. 

When side effects are severe or prolonged, healthcare providers may adjust the dosage or suggest alternative treatments. Regular follow-up appointments and continuous monitoring are crucial for optimizing the balance between therapeutic benefits and side effect management with Saxenda.

How to Avoid Side Effects of Saxenda

There are certain strategies and measures you can take to reduce Saxenda side effects and their impact on your health. Here are some recommendations to consider: 

  • Taking Saxenda at the same time each day to establish a routine. This consistency can help your body adapt to the medication, potentially minimizing side effects.
  • Rotate the Saxenda injection site regularly to prevent irritation or discomfort at a specific location as it ensures optimal absorption of the medication.
  • Adhere to the dosage prescribed by your doctor and avoid self-adjusting without professional guidance.
  • Regular monitoring and check-ups, including the assessment of thyroid function and kidney health, are essential to detect and manage potential issues early on.
  • Avoid consuming alcohol in combination with Saxenda, as it can worsen the side effects.
  • Immediately report any unusual symptoms, changes in weight, or concerns to your doctor.
  • Monitor your blood sugar levels to prevent them from dropping to a dangerous level (hypoglycemia). 
  • Take Saxenda along with your regular meals. 
  • Drink plenty of water to help mitigate potential side effects and support overall health. 
  • Follow a balanced diet as recommended by your doctor, including nutritious food choices.
  • Engage in regular physical activity, as advised by your healthcare provider. Exercise not only supports weight management but also promotes overall well-being.

The above-mentioned recommendations are general and are provided for informational purposes. Remember to receive personalized recommendations and instructions from your healthcare provider.

Saxenda Precautions and Warnings

Before starting Saxenda, it’s essential to know about certain precautions and warnings to minimize risks. Some of them are as follows: 

  • Prior health conditions: Inform your healthcare provider of any pre-existing health conditions, especially thyroid issues, pancreatitis, or gallbladder problems.
  • Medication interactions: Discuss any other medications or supplements you are taking to identify potential interactions with Saxenda.
  • Hypoglycemia: Individuals taking insulin for type 2 diabetes should exercise caution with Saxenda, as it may significantly lower blood glucose levels. Adjustments to the dosage may be necessary. 
  • Increased heart rate: Regularly monitoring your heart rate is advised, as Saxenda can cause an increase. If you feel your heart racing, it’s important to report it to your doctor.
  • Breastfeeding: If you are breastfeeding, consult with your healthcare provider to weigh the potential benefits and risks before using Saxenda.
  • Age considerations: Saxenda is generally not recommended for use in individuals under 18 years of age.
  • Pancreatitis: Saxenda users, especially those with a history of pancreatitis, may be at risk of developing acute pancreatitis. Watch out for signs like severe abdominal pain, back pain, and vomiting. If you suspect pancreatitis, stop using Saxenda right away and contact your healthcare provider.
  • Gallbladder disease: Individuals with a history of gallbladder disease or those at increased risk should be cautious when using Saxenda.
  • Suicidal thoughts and depression: Patients taking Saxenda should be assessed for signs of suicidal behavior, emergence, or worsening of depression, mood changes, etc.

Saxenda Сontraindications

Saxenda shots can be effective in weight loss, but there are certain instances when it’s prohibited to use this medication. Understanding the following contraindications is crucial in identifying situations where Saxenda may not be suitable:

  • Hypersensitivity reactions: Saxenda should not be used if there is a known hypersensitivity to either liraglutide or any other components of Saxenda.
  • Multiple Endocrine Neoplasia Syndrome Type 2 (MEN 2): Saxenda is contraindicated in individuals who have a personal or family history of multiple endocrine neoplasia syndrome type 2 (MEN 2) which is a rare hereditary tumor condition.
  • Medullary Thyroid Carcinoma (MTC): Individuals with a personal or family history of medullary thyroid cancer (MTC) are advised against using Saxenda due to the potential risk of thyroid C-cell tumors.
  • Pregnancy: Saxenda should not be used during pregnancy or if one is planning to become pregnant since it could pose a risk to the baby.

Conclusion

Navigating side effects brought on by Saxenda treatment involves understanding adverse reactions, contraindications, drug interactions, and precautionary measures. By following these guidelines and maintaining open communication with healthcare providers, individuals can optimize their experience with Saxenda, making the most of its effectiveness while minimizing potential risks. It is crucial to always consult with a healthcare professional for personalized advice and guidance tailored to your specific health needs.

FAQ

While hair loss is not a commonly reported side effect of Saxenda, individuals may experience it due to weight loss, changes in diet, or underlying health conditions. If you notice significant hair loss while on Saxenda, consult with your healthcare provider to rule out other potential causes.
The discontinuation of Saxenda may lead to a gradual return to pre-treatment weight levels. However, specific side effects after stopping Saxenda are variable among individuals. It is essential to work closely with your healthcare provider to establish a plan for transitioning off the medication and maintaining a healthy lifestyle.

Ozempic (semaglutide) and Saxenda (liraglutide) are both GLP-1 receptor agonists used for different purposes. While Saxenda is indicated for weight management, Ozempic is primarily prescribed for the treatment of type 2 diabetes. Despite their differences in formulation and recommended use, both medications share some similarities in their mechanism of action.

The safety of long-term Saxenda use is a subject of ongoing research. As of now, Saxenda is approved for chronic weight management, and its safety profile has been evaluated in clinical trials. It is crucial to follow your healthcare provider’s guidance on the duration of Saxenda use and to undergo regular check-ups to monitor for any potential side effects.
Facial changes are not commonly reported side effects of Saxenda. The medication primarily targets weight management through its effects on appetite regulation. If you notice any unusual changes in your face or facial features while on Saxenda, consult with your healthcare provider.
While vision problems are not listed as common side effects of Saxenda, any changes in vision should be promptly reported to your healthcare provider. It’s essential to attend regular eye check-ups, especially if you have pre-existing eye conditions, to monitor for any potential effects on eye health.
Headaches are a reported side effect of Saxenda. If you experience persistent or severe headaches while using Saxenda, consult with your healthcare provider. Adequate hydration, a balanced diet, and managing stress levels may help alleviate headaches associated with weight loss injections.

Sources

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+5 sources
  1. Saxenda
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  2. Liraglutide for weight management: a critical review of the evidence
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  3. Tolerability of nausea and vomiting and associations with weight loss in a randomized trial of liraglutide in obese, non-diabetic adults
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  4. Liraglutide-Induced Pancreatitis: A Case Report and Literature Review
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  5. Cholelithiasis in patients treated with Glucagon-Like Peptide-1 Receptor: An updated meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials
    Source link
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Written by:

Wafaa Amjad Dar

Pharm-D
Reviewer:

Dr. Bradley Noon

MD
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