Wegovy vs Saxenda: What's the difference?

Wegovy and Saxenda are two types of weight loss medication. So how do they compare in terms of effectiveness, cost, accessibility, and other factors?
Simon Lovick
1/24/2024
4
min read
Checked by
1/24/2024
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Quick summary

If you are deciding which is the right weight loss drug for you, it’s worthwhile weighing up the various benefits and other factors associated with Wegovy and Saxenda. 

Here, we break down all the information — comparing cost, dosage, accessibility, and most importantly, which is most effective in terms of weight loss.

Wegovy vs Saxenda: What are they?

Both forms of GLP-1 (glucagon-like peptide-1) analogs, however, Wegovy is a drug called semaglutide, while Saxenda is a drug called liraglutide. 

Both semaglutide and liraglutide are manufactured by the Danish pharmaceutical company, Novo Nordisk. Semaglutide was designed to be a longer acting medicine, hence it’s is administered less frequently than liraglutide (more on this later). 

Wegovy and Saxenda have similar origins. Both started out as a drug for type 2 diabetes and chronic obesity, and both quickly gained popularity as weight loss medication. 

They mimic a naturally occurring gut hormone called incretin, which is naturally released after you have eaten. The noticeable effect of this is a suppression of your appetite, leaving you feeling fuller for longer and decreased the perceived reward of eating. This decreased feeling of hunger is why both semaglutide and liraglutide are considered such effective treatments for weight loss.

Wegovy vs Saxenda: Which is more effective?

There are a number of factors to weigh up if you are choosing between Wegovy and Saxenda. But if you are measuring effectiveness in terms of weight loss, Wegovy is widely considered to be more effective. 

A number of studies comparing the effects of semaglutide and liraglutide have been fairly conclusive:

  • A 52-week weight loss trial found that those given semaglutide injections lost on average 11.2-13.8% of their weight, compared to 7-8% for liraglutide participants [1]
  • A 26-week trial for patients with type 2 diabetes found that 22-76% of those taking semaglutide lost 5% of their weight, compared to just 16-42% of liraglutide participants [2]

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Wegovy vs Saxenda: dosage

So how do you actually administer Wegovy and Saxenda? Both medications come as an injection pen which you can administer yourself. 

As a longer-acting medication, Wegovy is taken once a week via a single-use pen (only enough for one injection). In terms of titration, Wegovy starts at 0.25mg for weeks 1 to 4, increases to 0.5mg for weeks 5 to 8, then 1mg for weeks 9 to 12, 1.7mg for weeks 13 to 17, then remaining at 2.4mg (the maximum concentration) from then onwards. [3]

Saxenda is taken daily, and comes in a multi-use pen (whose length depends on the titration of your doses). In terms of titration, Saxenda starts at ​​0.6mg in week 1, increases to 1.2mg in week 2, 1.8mg in week 3, 2.4mg in week 4, and up to 3.0mg (the maximum concentration) in week 5 onwards. [4] 

Wegovy vs Saxenda: accessibility

Depending on certain eligibility, you can access Wegovy and Saxenda in different ways.  

Saxenda has been available on the NHS since 2020, through specialist weight management services and only under strict criteria (BMI over 50, or if your BMI is between 35-49 and you have other health problems). [5]

Following a successful trial, Wegovy is now also available on the NHS, also offered as part of specialist weight management services and prescribed alongside a reduced calorie diet and exercise programme. To be eligible, you must have a BMI of over 30 (obese) and at least one weight related comorbidity. [6]

Both drugs can also be bought through a private prescription. For instance, Wegovy is available through Habitual, helping individuals looking to achieve and maintain weight loss. The convenience of this comes from the fact you don’t require an in-person consultation and products are shipped to your door. 

Wegovy vs Saxenda: cost

If you are accessing Wegovy and Saxenda on prescription from the NHS, then you simply have to pay the NHS prescription cost (at time of writing, £9.65 per item). 

If you are looking to buy Wegovy or Saxenda privately, you will of course have to pay more. These costs vary in amount, and should also factor in the cost of getting a prescription from a licensed prescriber.

Buying online also requires a prescription (some online pharmacies include this, as do certain digital health platforms like Habitual). If not, you’ll need to get a private prescription which of course comes at a cost. 

References

[1] O’Neil, P., Barkenfield, A., McGowan, B., et al (2018). Efficacy and safety of semaglutide compared with liraglutide and placebo for weight loss in patients with obesity: a randomised, double-blind, placebo and active controlled, dose-ranging, phase 2 trial, The Lancet, Vol.392 Issue 10148, p637-649. Accessible here

[2] Lingvay, I., Desouza, C., Lalic, K., et al (2018). A 26-Week Randomized Controlled Trial of Semaglutide Once Daily Versus Liraglutide and Placebo in Patients With Type 2 Diabetes Suboptimally Controlled on Diet and Exercise With or Without Metformin, Diabetes Care 2018;41:1926–1937. Accessible here

[3] Wegovy dosing schedule for adults. Wegovy, retrieved September 4th 2023. Accessible here

[4] Saxenda® for weight loss, Lloyd’s Pharmacy Online Doctor, retrieved September 4th 2023. Accessible here

[5] Is Saxenda free on the NHS?, Simple Online Pharmacy, retrieved September 4th 2023. Accessible here

[6] NHS in England to start prescribing weight-loss jab Wegovy despite low supply, The Guardian, retrieved September 4th 2023. Accessible here

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