Saxenda: What are the Side Effects?

As with all medications, Saxenda (liraglutide) does carry a risk of side effects. The most common side effects are mild and usually disappear within a few weeks. However, in rare cases, people do experience severe side effects and so it is important to be aware of these before taking Saxenda. This article provides a summary of Saxenda side effects, but you should always read the patient information leaflet before taking any medication. 

What is Saxenda?

Saxenda is a weight loss injection. It is currently the only weight loss injection available in the UK. It comes in a special pen which you use to inject yourself once a day. Saxenda works by helping you feel fuller for longer and reducing your appetite. 

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What are the most common Saxenda side effects?

There are a number of different side effects associated with Saxenda. The most common side effects, affecting more than 10% of people who take Saxenda include nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, constipation and headaches. These side effects usually disappear within a few days or weeks. 

Which side effects of Saxenda do I need to worry about?

Serious side effects of Saxenda are rare, but it is important you are aware of them before taking Saxenda. 

It is possible to experience a severe allergic reaction (anaphylaxis) in response to Saxenda. Symptoms of anaphylaxis include breathing problems, swelling of the face or throat and a fast heartbeat. You should stop taking Saxenda and seek emergency medical attention if you experience any of those symptoms. 

Saxenda can also cause inflammation of the pancreas (pancreatitis). Symptoms include severe persistent abdominal pain, nausea and vomiting. If you experience these symptoms, stop taking Saxenda and seek immediate medical attention. 

Kidney problems can occur in up to 0.1% of people taking Saxenda. Symptoms may include reduced urination, easy bruising and a metallic taste in the mouth. Seek immediate medical attention if you experience any of those symptoms. 

Saxenda may react with certain medications such as blood thinners and type 2 diabetes medications (sulfonylureas and insulin). Saxenda can affect these drugs in a way that could be dangerous, so always inform the prescribing doctor of any medications you are taking. 

Saxenda may not be suitable for you if you have certain medical conditions affecting your heart, liver, gallbladder or thyroid. Always let the prescribing doctor know if you have any pre-existing health conditions as they may be able to monitor you more closely or find a more suitable treatment. 

Can I take Saxenda if I am pregnant or breastfeeding?

Saxenda is a relatively new medication and for this reason, we do not know exactly how Saxenda may affect a baby. Therefore, you should not take Saxenda if you are pregnant or breastfeeding as there is an unknown risk of harm to you or your baby. 

Can I drive whilst taking Saxenda?

Saxenda is not likely to affect your ability to drive or use heavy machinery. However, dizziness is a known side effect of Saxenda. Do not drive if you are experiencing dizziness or feeling unwell as a consequence of taking Saxenda. 

What are the side effects of stopping Saxenda?

There are no reported withdrawal symptoms from stopping Saxenda. Saxenda works by helping you feel fuller for longer and reducing your appetite. Therefore, stopping Saxenda may lead to an increase in your appetite. If this occurs, you may wish to continue taking Saxenda or to consider other lifestyle changes or weight loss treatments. 

As Saxenda can also reduce your blood sugar, it is possible that stopping Saxenda could cause a temporary increase in your blood sugar levels. This is something to be especially aware of if you have diabetes. 

What are the less common side effects of Saxenda?

There are a large number of different possible side effects on Saxenda. 

Approximately 10% of people will experience indigestion, abdominal discomfort, bloating, flatulence, heartburn, belching, dry mouth, tiredness, weakness, altered sense of taste, dizziness, insomnia, gallstones or low blood sugar. You may also experience reactions around the injection site such as bruising, pain, rash and irritation. 

Uncommon side effects, affecting up to 1% of people include dehydration, allergic reactions, feeling unwell, rapid heartbeat, inflammation of the gall bladder or a delay in the emptying of the stomach. 

What should I do if I experience side effects when taking Saxenda?

If you are experiencing a severe side effect such as anaphylaxis, inflammation of the pancreas or kidney problems, you should seek immediate medical attention. 

Most common side effects of Saxenda resolve within a few days or weeks of taking Saxenda. Paracetamol can be taken to relieve abdominal pain or a Saxenda headache. If you are experiencing vomiting or diarrhoea, it is important to stay hydrated. Drink plenty of water and use oral rehydration salts to maintain your electrolyte levels. 

If you are having difficulty coping with the side effects of Saxenda, your doctor may be able to offer you advice or a more suitable treatment. 

Are there any alternatives to Saxenda?

There are many different options to support your weight loss journey. Maintaining a healthy diet and increasing your exercise levels is important if you want to lose weight. Local weight loss groups and exercise classes can support this. However, if you need more assistance, there are various medications available. 

Orlistat (Xenical) is a weight loss tablet. It helps to prevent the digestion of fat in your diet, but it must be combined with a healthy diet and exercise to be effective. If you are looking for an alternative weight loss injection, Wegovy is expected to become available in 2023, but Saxenda is currently the only weight loss injectable on the market. 

If you are severely obese (BMI 40 or more) weight loss surgery may be an option to consider. It may also be offered to you if you have a BMI between 35 and 40 if you have another health condition which could be improved by weight loss, such as diabetes or high blood pressure. 

It is important to be aware that the risks of surgery are far higher than the risks of weight loss treatments such as orlistat or Saxenda. For this reason, you are unlikely to be eligible for surgery unless you have tried the medications first. Speak to your doctor to explore your options for weight loss surgery. 

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