Ozempic vs Saxenda: What is the difference?

Dr Kathryn Basford

Medically reviewed by

Dr Kathryn Basford

Ozempic and Saxenda are 2 different types of medication that can be used to help people lose weight. They are both self-administered injections, with Ozempic taken once weekly and Saxenda daily. They work by suppressing your appetite and, when combined with a reduced calorie diet and increased physical activity, can help you lose weight. However, Ozempic is not licensed in the UK for weight loss treatment. It is only licensed for type 2 diabetes, while Saxenda is currently available in the UK on prescription, both privately and through specialist NHS clinics.

You may have heard of a new weight loss treatment called Wegovy. Wegovy has the same active ingredient as Ozempic, but has a different brand name. It contains the active ingredient, semaglutide. Both Saxenda, which contains liraglutide, and semaglutide medications for weight loss, like Ozempic and Wegovy, require specific eligibility criteria to be met relating to body mass index (BMI) and existing health conditions before they can be prescribed. Read on to learn more about Saxenda, Ozempic and weight loss treatments.


What is Saxenda (liraglutide)?

Saxenda is a weight loss drug which comes as a once daily self-administered injection using a special pre-filled pen. It contains the active ingredient liraglutide, which mimics the natural appetite hormone glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1) and suppresses your appetite (stops you from feeling hungry). It is available in the UK on prescription and has been used by the NHS since 2020 for people who are referred to specialist weight management services and fit a strict set of criteria. You can also pay to be assessed and prescribed Saxenda by an online healthcare provider like Asda Online Doctor.

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How effective is Saxenda for weight loss?

Saxenda is an effective weight loss medication for most people. Around 86% of people who use it lose some weight. After 56 weeks on the maintenance dose 50.7% of patients achieve significant weight loss of 5% or more. However, for Saxenda to be effective, it is important that it is combined with a reduced calorie diet and increased physical activity.

What is Ozempic (semaglutide)?

Ozempic is a drug used to treat type 2 diabetes, and the active ingredient it contains (semaglutide) has also been successfully used as a weight loss treatment in studies. Semaglutide behaves like the natural appetite hormone glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1) and makes you less hungry. Ozempic is a prescription only treatment which is self-administered via a once weekly injection using a special pre-filled pen.

Wegovy also contains semaglutide. This medication now is licensed to treat obesity in those without diabetes, too. Similarly to Ozempic, Wegovy is an injection medication you only need to take once a week.

How effective is Ozempic for weight loss?

Semaglutide, the active ingredient in Ozempic and Wegovy, has been shown to be effective in helping people lose weight. A study found after 68 weeks of use, the average reduction in body weight was 14.9%, which was 12.4% more than for those who did not take semaglutide. Another study found that after 2 years, the average baseline weight loss for those taking semaglutide was 15.2%, versus a 2.6% reduction for those who took the placebo.

What is the difference between Ozempic and Saxenda?

While Saxenda and Ozempic work in similar ways, there are some key differences between each treatment:

  • Ozempic is currently only prescribed for type 2 diabetes, whereas Saxenda is prescribed for weight loss.
  • Saxenda needs to be self-administered once a day using a special injection pen, whereas Ozempic is injected once a week.
  • The active ingredient in Saxenda is liraglutide, whereas in Ozempic it is semaglutide. Both liraglutide (Saxenda) and semaglutide work in a similar way by mimicking a natural appetite hormone called glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1) to suppress your appetite.
  • A 2022 study suggested that semaglutide (Ozempic/Wegovy) was more effective at helping people lose weight than liraglutide (Saxenda). In both cases, the drug must be combined with a reduced calorie diet and increased physical activity.

Side effects

Both Saxenda/liraglutide and Ozempic/semaglutide can have side effects for some people. If you do get side effects that don’t improve or become unmanageable, you should speak to your doctor for advice.

Saxenda/liraglutide side effects

Common side effects include:

  • decreased energy levels
  • burping
  • constipation or diarrhoea
  • headaches
  • toothache
  • insomnia (difficulty sleeping)
  • dizziness, nausea (feeling sick), or vomiting
  • dry mouth
  • gallbladder disorders
  • gastrointestinal discomfort or disorders
  • increased risk of infection
  • skin reactions
  • a change in your taste

Uncommon side effects include:

  • dehydration
  • feeling unwell without a specific symptom
  • pancreatitis
  • renal (kidney) impairment
  • rapid heart rate

Very rare side effects include:

  • swelling
  • breathing difficulties
  • low blood pressure
  • fluid build-up (oedema)
  • heart palpitations
  • acute pancreatitis
  • thyroid disorder

Ozempic/semaglutide side effects

Common side effects include:

  • decreased appetite
  • burping
  • gallstones
  • constipation or diarrhoea
  • dizziness, nausea (feeling sick), or vomiting
  • tiredness
  • gastrointestinal discomfort or disorders
  • low blood sugar, when combined with insulin or other diabetic medication

Uncommon side effects include:

  • pancreatitis
  • a change in your taste


Saxenda costs £55 for a single pen, £48 each when you buy three, or £46 when you buy five from Asda Online Doctor. The price of Ozempic/Wegovy medication for weight loss is not yet known as it is not available to purchase.

Availability of Ozempic vs Saxenda

The key difference between Ozempic and Saxenda is that Ozempic was not developed for weight loss. It is suitable for patients with type 2 diabetes and contains the active ingredient semaglutide.

Please note: Semaglutide was approved for weight loss in 2022 and is now available under the brand name Wegovy. Both Saxenda and Wegovy are available on the NHS as well as with a prescription from Asda Online Doctor.

When will Ozempic be available in the UK?

Ozempic is currently available in the UK, but for type 2 diabetes only. The brand name Wegovy, which contains the same active ingredient (semaglutide,) has been approved by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE), and is now available as well.

Should I choose Ozempic or Saxenda for weight loss?

Many patients may find semaglutide medication like Ozempic or Wegovy a better option than Saxenda (liraglutide) because you only need to inject it once a week rather than every day. One study found that using semaglutide resulted in a 9.4% larger average baseline weight loss compared to liraglutide (Saxenda).

Are there any other weight loss injections?

Apart from Saxenda, Wegovy is another weight loss injection. It also contains a hormone that affects appetite, in this case semaglutide instead of liraglutide. By reducing your appetite, Wegovy can help you lose weight alongside a healthy diet and exercise when taken once a week.

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Medically reviewed by:
Dr Kathryn Basford

Dr Kathryn Basford is a qualified GP who works as a GP in London, as well as with ZAVA. She graduated from the University of Manchester and completed her GP training through Whipps Cross Hospital in London.

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Article created: 23 Aug 2023

(Reviews are for ZAVA UK)

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