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What is Liraglutide?

Liraglutide is the active ingredient in Saxenda but how does it work to help you lose weight? Find out more about these popularweight loss injections.
Saxenda liraglutide injection 3 mg

How Does Liraglutide Work? 

Liraglutide works by acting in an almost-identical way to a natural hormone that we produce called GLP-1.

This hormone is part of what lets us know when we’ve had enough to eat.

Essentially, it helps us to realise that we’re satisfied and don’t need any more food.

Unfortunately, the natural version of this hormone doesn’t last very long.

This often means that the satisfaction doesn’t last long either.

However, when Liraglutide was developed, researchers altered its structure so that it would last longer in the body – 13 hours, to be exact. 

Because it lasts longer, it’s able to make us feel fuller for longer, often after less food!

It also works for diabetes by increasing the amount of insulin that the body produces when there’s a need for it.

Victoza (which uses Liraglutide as its active ingredient) can also reduce the amount of sugar secreted by the liver.

It works in these two ways to control diabetes

Is Liraglutide safe? 

Liraglutide is a safe and effective drug for most people that need it.

Its main side effects involve the stomach and gut.

This means that you might experience nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea or constipation.

However, most people find that these subside within a couple of weeks or so.  

Stomach pains

There are some circumstances where Liraglutide might not be safe for someone.

For example, if you have an allergy to any of the ingredients.

It should also be avoided if you have certain health conditions such as:

  • Severe heart failure
  • Kidney Disease
  • Gastroparesis
  • Inflammatory bowel disease
  • Inflamed pancreas

If you do have any of the above conditions, you should speak to your doctor about whether Liraglutide would be safe for you.

Medicines that contain Liraglutide such as Saxenda and Victoza can also interact with some other treatments.

Interactions between medicines can cause dangerous side effects.

Because of this, you should make sure that it’s safe to take Liraglutide with any medication you might already be taking.

Some known interactions are other medicines that can affect blood glucose levels, as well as anticoagulants.

If you’re taking either of these types of medicine, you should speak to your doctor or tell your prescriber.

What does Liraglutide do? 

Liraglutide works in several ways.

It can be used as a treatment for both diabetes and weight management.

With weight management, Liraglutide helps to reduce your appetite.

This should mean that you eat less food and therefore fewer calories – resulting in weight loss.

It does this in two ways.

Firstly, it copies the effects of a hormone that tells us when we’re satisfied after food.

However, it’s been engineered to last longer in the body. This means that you feel fuller for longer, too.

It also helps for weight loss by slowing down gastric emptying.

This is how long it takes food to pass through your digestive system.

When this process is slowed down, it means that food stays in your stomach for longer.

This can also contribute to making you feel more satisfied. 

For diabetes, Liraglutide works by helping the pancreas to create more insulin.

This is usually needed when blood glucose levels are high and can then help them to stabilise.

It also prevents your liver from producing too much glucose.

Once blood glucose levels are stabilised, it’s much easier to control diabetes.  

When to take Liraglutide 

Liraglutide should be taken at the same time each day.

It doesn’t really matter when you take your injection, as long as it’s at a time that suits your routine.

Saxenda needle close up

Many people find that it helps to add their injection to their morning routine, or something that they do every day, this way, you’re less likely to forget a dose.

You may already have a medicine routine that you could add Liraglutide to.

Essentially, it doesn’t matter what time of day you inject, or even if you’ve eaten or not.

As long as you take the injection at around the same time each day, it should be fine.  

You should only take Liraglutide if you have a medical need for it.

For example, if you have diabetes or if you have obesity and struggle to lose weight naturally.

Liraglutide is a prescription medicine that can be dangerous if it’s misused.

Some beauty clinics and influencers promote these injections as some kind of quick-fix for weight loss.

However, you should know that it is serious medicine that should only be used when absolutely necessary.

How long should I take Liraglutide for? 

There’s no official guidance on how long you should take Liraglutide.

In a lot of cases, it depends on why you’re using it.  

Those that take Liraglutide for type 2 diabetes might need to take it for life.

However, it may help to improve your blood glucose levels and reduce your weight, in which case you might not need it anymore.  

Those taking Liraglutide for diabetes should be regularly monitored to find out whether or not the treatment is helping.

In these cases, your GP or diabetic specialist will guide you on when to stop taking Liraglutide.  

If you’re using Saxenda (a form of Liraglutide for weight loss), you may not need to take it for as long.

The aim of Saxenda is to help people with obesity lose weight to reach a healthy BMI.

Once this happens, you may be able to come off the injections and manage your weight with diet and exercise.

The time it takes to reach a healthy BMI is different for everyone.

Some people only need to take Saxenda for a few months, others will need to take it for a couple of years or more to reach their desired weight.

There are no long-term negative effects of Liraglutide reported, therefore, you should be able to stay on it for as long as you need to.  

Can I ask my GP to prescribe me Liraglutide? 

Although Liraglutide is available on the NHS, your GP will only be able to prescribe it in certain circumstances.

If you’re needing Victoza for diabetes, your doctor or diabetic nurse should be able to prescribe it for you.

However, if you need it for weight management, things are a bit more difficult.  

Doctor working at a computer

Saxenda is currently only available on the NHS in tier 3 weight management services.

This means that you’ll need to be referred to a multi-disciplinary team who will look at your weight.

This can include endocrinology, psychology, nutrition, physiotherapy, and other types of therapy.

Something else that tier 3 services can sometimes offer is medical therapy.

This is where you may be able to access Saxenda on the NHS, however, it may not be available in all CCGs.

One of the most popular ways to get Saxenda in the UK is to buy a private prescription from services such as myBMI.

This involves completing an online consultation form which is reviewed by UK registered clinicians.

If they believe that it’s suitable for you, they can issue a prescription and send it to your door. 

Can you get Liraglutide prescribed to help with weight loss? 

Yes! It’s absolutely possible to get Liraglutide prescribed for weight loss.

Saxenda is the brand of Liraglutide that’s available for weight management.

It can be prescribed to people with a BMI of over 30 (or over 27 with a weight-related health problem).

However, it can be tricky to get hold of it on the NHS.  

Luckily, you can obtain Saxenda privately from reputable prescribers.

As it’s still a prescription medicine, you’ll still have to answer some questions to ensure that this treatment is both safe and suitable for you.

However, the beauty of some online services is that you don’t have to wait for an appointment.

With myBMI, you can fill out the form whenever suits you! 

To make sure that it’s safe for you to use for weight management, we’ll also check your NHS summary care record.

This is for patient safety and to make sure that the treatment isn’t being misused. 

Who is Liraglutide used for? 

Liraglutide is used for those with diabetes, as well as people with obesity that need help with losing weight.  

Liraglutide was originally developed as a treatment for diabetes.

It has been produced by Novo Nordisk for this purpose under the name Victoza since 2009.

However, it was also found to help with weight loss in patients during clinical trials.

Because of this, Liraglutide went through more trials to see if it would help non-diabetic people with obesity.

Trials were successful, and liraglutide was released again under the name Saxenda, which is licensed for weight management.

Content Written By

Laura Henderson

Laura Henderson

Reviewed & Fact-Checked By

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Content Written By

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