Semaglutide vs. Liraglutide
There are multiple weight loss drugs available, now more than ever before. It can be overwhelming to research every option and compare them to determine what is the best fit for you.
If you are comparison shopping for a medication to help you with your weight loss goals, you are probably wondering – in a battle of semaglutide vs. liraglutide – which comes out on top?
What is a GLP-1?
Liraglutide (brand name Saxenda) and semaglutide (brand name Wegovy) are members of the GLP-1 class of medications. These two medications have liquid formulations that are injected into a fatty portion of the arm, stomach, or thigh.
GLP-1, first and foremost, is an acronym for a hormone made naturally in our bodies, “glucagon-like peptide-1.” GLP-1 is secreted by the intestines and has multiple roles in our bodily functions.
GLP-1 also refers to a class of medications that are analogous (similar in structure and function) to the GLP-1 that is made naturally in our body. These medications were first used as a treatment for Type II Diabetes as an agent to lower blood sugar and improve the way our body responds to insulin, an important hormone in weight management and blood sugar regulation.
How does a GLP-1 medication cause weight loss?
The exact way that a GLP-1 medication causes weight loss is unknown. However, the primary effects most likely to cause weight loss are as follows:
- GLP-1 medications slow down the movement of the intestinal tract. Keeping food in the stomach longer keeps you full for longer.
- Act on the brain to decrease hunger, increase satisfaction, and alter the food-reward system (changing food preferences in favor of healthier options.)
- Improves the body’s response to insulin, a term called “insulin sensitivity,” which has a positive effect on both blood sugar levels and weight loss.1
For a more detailed explanation of how GLP-1 medications work to cause weight loss, you can check out our article “What does semaglutide do to the body?”.
How often is each medication injected?
One notable difference between liraglutide and semaglutide is the frequency that the medications must be injected.
Liraglutide for weight loss may be better known as its brand name, Saxenda. Saxenda has been available as an FDA approved medication for use in adults since 2014 as a once daily injectable medication. It was approved for use in teens 12 – 17 years old in 2020 and is a once daily injectable medication. 2
Semaglutide for weight loss, also known by its brand name Wegovy, was approved by the FDA for use as in adults in 2021 and is a once weekly injectable medication. Semaglutide is in trials for use in teens but has not yet been approved as of the publication of this article.3
How much weight can I lose with liraglutide?
Three studies have been performed on liraglutide for weight loss in adults. At the conclusion of the three studies, results were reported as follows:
- Average weight loss: 5.9% of starting weight among 3,122 participants across three studies. For example, in a person weighing 200 lbs. at starting, this would be an 11.8 lb. weight loss.
- 27.2% of participants lost more than 10% of starting weight across three studies. For example, in a person weighing 200 lbs. at starting, this would be a 20 lb. weight loss or more.
There was no information reported about participants losing more than 10% of their starting body weight and since we do not dispense liraglutide here at Rivas we don’t have any in-clinic results to share.4
How much weight can I lose with semaglutide?
Four studies have been performed on semaglutide for weight loss in adults. For simplicity, I am including results reported in studies 1-3.
At the conclusion of the first 3 studies, results were reported as follows:
- Average weight loss: 13.5% of starting weight. For example, in the average person weighing 200 lbs. at starting, this would be a 26 lb. weight loss.
- 42.1% of participants lost more than 15% of starting weight. For example, in a person weighing 200 lbs. at starting, this would be a 30 lb. weight loss or more.
In our practice, I routinely see people lose 20% or more of their starting body weight in those who adopt lifestyle modifications that promote healthful weight loss.5
What are the side effects?
Since semaglutide and liraglutide are in the same medication class, the side effects are going to be very similar.
Most patients experience some mild nausea, headache, diarrhea, or constipation early on in treatment.
Occasionally our patients on semaglutide have episodes of vomiting, but we do our best to avoid this by increasing the dosage of the medication slowly according to the individual tolerance of the patient.
More rarely, severe side effects such as severe nausea, vomiting, pancreatitis, or gallbladder inflammation may occur.
Which medication is more effective?
To put things simply, the average person on liraglutide may lose roughly 5.9% or more of their starting body weight by taking daily injections.
The average person on semaglutide may lose around 13.5% or more of their starting body weight by taking weekly injections.
If you were 200 lbs. at starting, that would be either an 11.8 lb. loss with liraglutide or a 26 lb. loss with semaglutide.
Of course, these are simply averages and may or may not be your personal results. You may lose more or less than these examples.
However, strictly using the information that was reported in the studies – semaglutide outperforms liraglutide for weight loss and is injected less frequently. Our patients on semaglutide routinely lose 20% or more of their starting weight and many reach their desired weight loss goals whether that is 20, 50, 70 or more pounds.
Why don’t you offer liraglutide at Rivas?
At Rivas clinics we offer semaglutide only. Due to the need for once-daily injections with liraglutide and the decreased effectiveness compared to semaglutide we have opted not to offer liraglutide at this time.
They include – increased blood pressure, tachycardia (heart rate over 100 beats per minute), pulmonary hypertension, disease of the heart valves, or even events related to ischemia (loss of blood flow) to the heart or other organs. Ischemia of the heart can lead to heart attacks, and ischemia in the brain causes a stroke.1
Ready to get started?
At Rivas Medical Weight Loss we offer non-branded semaglutide injections at an affordable cost compared to branded Wegovy. If you’d like to speak to one of our providers about whether semaglutide is right for you, call your nearest clinic to schedule a consultation.