This content was reviewed and approved for its accuracy on 21/02/2022 by Professor Frank Joseph

Photograph of Professor Frank Joseph, weight loss expert for myBMI

When Will Liraglutide Be Generic?


Liraglutide is the active ingredient in both Saxenda and Victoza, but you may have noticed that you can’t be prescribed Liraglutide itself.


This is because this active ingredient is licensed for two different things and the brand you’ll be prescribed will depend on what you’re using it for — Saxenda for weight loss and Victoza for type 2 diabetes.


Calling these medications two different brand names helps to keep differences in dosing clear, as type 2 diabetes patients typically need a lower dose of Liraglutide than those using it for weight loss.


However, well-known medications like paracetamol and ibuprofen are available in their unbranded (generic) form or under brand names (like Anadin or Nurofen) and are provided with relatively few concerns for medication mix-ups, so what makes Liraglutide different?


Stick with us and we’ll explain it all.


Why do we need to wait for generic Saxenda and Victoza?


As it stands, we’ll probably only be able to see generic versions of Victoza Liraglutide injections at the end of 2023 at the earliest.


This is because Liraglutide has been patented under Victoza and Saxenda by its developer, Novo Nordisk.


Much like patents on technology, these licenses allow Novo Nordisk to be the only manufacturer and distributor of Victoza and Saxenda for a few years.


When this time is up, other manufacturers will be able to produce and sell Liraglutide under their own brand names or as a generic medication.


All medications follow this path, so it’s only a matter of waiting it out until the exclusive patent has expired.


Thinking back to our example of paracetamol, the ingredient is used in lots of different branded medicines like Anadin, Calpol, and Panadol, but you can also buy packets of unbranded paracetamol very cheaply.


In most of these cases, you’ll find that the branded products are more expensive, as you’re paying for the name but the active ingredient remains the same and all of these medicines are just as effective as each other.


Will Liraglutide be cheaper when it’s unbranded?


When a medication is able to go generic, it commonly becomes much cheaper as other manufacturers make and release their own versions of the medication.


One of the most notable times this happened was with Sildenafil, a medication you’ll probably be more familiar with under its original brand name, Viagra.


When the patent on Sildenafil ran out a few years ago it was available to be created by other manufacturers, who have started to sell their medication more cheaply.


This is a win for patients, as prices have had to drop across the board so all manufacturers can remain competitive in a more saturated market.


However, Liraglutide is an interesting case as it’s quite expensive to produce, so other manufacturers may not want to commit to making it and those that do will want to make a profit.


With this in mind, the price of generic Liraglutide may not be hugely different to the prices of Victoza and Saxenda, we’ll just have to wait and see!


Will generic Liraglutide be used for diabetes or weight loss?


As we mentioned earlier, the patent for Victoza will only run out in December 2023 at the earliest, but this will only cover Liraglutide as it’s used for type 2 diabetes.


Saxenda has a separate patent and is therefore running to a different timeline.


At the moment, data suggests that we’ll only see generic Saxenda become available in 2026, but we’re unsure whether Victoza being available in an unbranded form sooner will affect this.


Prescribers are able to prescribe a medication for purposes it isn’t licensed for using a system called off-label prescribing, which can happen when they are sure that the medication will be beneficial to their patient.


Again, if we look at paracetamol, children may be prescribed a dose of paracetamol that is different to the one they would normally take if they were given medicines like Calpol.


This is because the prescriber is sure that the potential benefits to the patient outweigh the potential risks.


As Liraglutide is already commonly prescribed for weight loss as Saxenda, when Victoza is unbranded we may see a rise in prescribers offering it off-label as a more cost-effective alternative to the brand name weight loss injections.


Of course, this is all conjecture, there’s no way of knowing what will happen at this point, but it’s definitely something we’ll be keeping an eye on in years to come.

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