Saxenda Information Hub

Dr Kathryn Basford

Medically reviewed by

Dr Kathryn Basford

Last reviewed: 15 Mar 2022


What is Saxenda?

Saxenda is a weight loss medication that is prescribed in the form of a pen. It contains the active ingredient liraglutide, which is similar to a natural hormone you have in your body called glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1). GLP-1 is usually released by your intestine when you have finished eating a meal.

Saxenda works by releasing liraglutide, which tells the receptors in your brain that you are full. As these receptors control your appetite, Saxenda makes you feel less hungry, which can help you eat less and reduce your body weight.

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What is Saxenda used for?

Saxenda is used for weight loss and should be used alongside a balanced diet and exercise. It should only be used in adults over the age of 18 who have:

  • a BMI between 27 kg/m² to 30 kg/m² and a health problem that can affect weight, such as high blood pressure, diabetes, or breathing problems when sleeping (sleep apnoea)
  • a BMI of over 30 kg/m²

BMI stands for body mass index and measures your weight in relation to your height. A BMI of 30 kg/m² and above is classed as obese.

How do I take Saxenda?

Saxenda comes as a pen that you use to inject the medication into your body. You should always use your Saxenda pen in the way that your online doctor has told you to. You may also be given an exercise and diet plan to follow whilst using Saxenda. You should continue to follow this to get the best results from Saxenda.

How long does a Saxenda pen last?

Because your dose will change as your treatment goes on, it is not possible to give an exact measurement of how long a single Saxenda pen will last. You can expect a single Saxenda pen to last anywhere from a few days to 2.5 weeks depending on where you are in your treatment.

How to administer Saxenda

Your Saxenda pen will come with a patient information leaflet that shows you how to administer it. Always read the instructions thoroughly before using Saxenda for the first time.

A Saxenda pen should only be used with NovoFine® or NovoTwist® disposable needles, with a length of up to 8mm and a size of 32G. These are supplied with your Saxenda medication for free, to cover the course of your treatment. You can also request a sharps bin with your order for an additional £1.50.

If you have poor eyesight or are blind, do not use the pen without help from someone who has been trained to use it.

1. Check your medication

Before using Saxenda, you should check the name and label, to make sure it contains Saxenda. This is important if you take other injectable medications. When you pull off the cap, the liquid inside should be colourless, or almost colourless. If the solution in your pen looks cloudy, do not use it.

2. Attach a new needle

Make sure to wash your hands with soap and water before you start this process. Do not attach a new needle until you are ready to take the medication.

Take an unused needle and remove the paper tab. Push the new needle onto the pen. Keep turning until it is on tightly. Take the outer cap off the needle but keep it close by, as you will need it again after administering your dose.

Take off the inner needle cap, this can be thrown away. Do not try and put it back on as you may prick yourself with the needle. A drop of medicine may appear on the needle. This is normal but you still need to check the flow if it is a new pen.

3. Check the flow with each new pen

When you get a new pen for the first time, you must check the flow. If you have already done this and the pen works, go to stage 4.

First, select your dose by turning the dose selector. You should do this until the dose counter shows the “flow check” symbol. To see an image of this, check the instructions in your patient information leaflet.

Once dosed, hold your pen with the needle pointing upwards. Press and hold the dose button until the dose counter is at 0. You should see a drop of medication appearing at the tip of the needle. A small drop may stay on the needle but it is still fine to use.

If a drop does not appear, repeat this again until it does, up to 6 times. If a drop does not appear, try changing the needle and repeating again. If it still does not appear, you must dispose of the pen and use another one.

4. Select your dose

To select your dose, you must turn the dose selector until it shows the right dose for you. Your online doctor will tell you what dose you are on. The dose selector has a small window where you can read which dose is selected.

You can move the dose selector forwards and backwards to get to the right dose and up to a maximum dose of 3mg. If your pen has less than 3mg left, the dose selector will stop before 3mg is shown. Do not count the sound of the clicks as this does not correlate with the doses.

5. Inject your dose

Insert the needle into your skin whilst making sure you can see the dose counter. Press the dose button down and hold until the dose counter reaches 0. Do not cover the dose counter as this could interrupt the injection. The 0 should line up with the pointer. When the dose is done, you should hear or feel a click from the pen.

When the dose counter reaches 0, keep the needle in your skin and count to 6 slowly. If you remove the needle too early, all the medicine may not have been injected. Do not take a double dose, even if you think you have removed it too early.

After you have counted to 6, remove the needle from your skin. If you bleed, press on the area lightly until it stops with a piece of gauze or tissue. Do not rub the injected area. Sometimes there is a small drop of solution on the needle after injecting, this is normal and does not affect the dose you received.

6. Remove needle after your injection

Once the needle is removed from your skin, place it into the outer needle cap that you saved earlier. Do not touch the needle. When the needle is covered, push the outer cap on completely and unscrew the needle. You can then dispose of it safely. You should put the pen cap back on to protect your Saxenda pen.

Tips for administering Saxenda

There are some things that are helpful to remember when administering Saxenda.

  1. You must always use a new needle for each dose. This can prevent the needle from becoming blocked and reduce the risk of contamination or infection.
  2. Never use a needle that has become damaged or bent. It is always better to get a new one if you are not sure.
  3. If you need more medicine than is left in your pen, get a new pen to inject the dose. Do not split the dose between 2 pens, unless you have been trained to do so, or your online doctor has told you that you can.
  4. Always watch the dosage counter and make sure it hits 0. If 0 never appears after pressing the dose button a few times, the needle may be blocked or damaged. This means you have not received any of the medicine, even if the dose counter has changed from your original dose. If this happens, change the needle and repeat the steps again.
  5. Use your Saxenda pen at the same time each day. Find a time that works for you.
  6. You can inject the pen into your preferred application area. The best places to inject the medicine are the front of your stomach, upper arms, or front of your thighs. You should never inject into a muscle or vein. Make sure to rotate the injection sites to a different area of skin each day, to protect your skin.
  7. Never share your Saxenda pen or needles with anybody else.

Saxenda Dosage Information

Saxenda starts at a lower dose which will be increased gradually, over the first 5 weeks of treatment. Your online doctor will tell you how to increase your dose until you reach 3mg a day, which is the maintenance dose.

Usually, Saxenda is taken as follows:

  • Week 1- 0.6mg a day
  • Week 2- 1.2mg a day
  • Week 3- 1.8mg a day
  • Week 4- 2.4mg a day
  • Week 5 onwards- 3mg a day

Your online doctor should assess how Saxenda is working regularly.

Why does the dose of Saxenda® increase over the first month?

As Saxenda has some side effects, it is recommended to start on a lower dose, until your body gets used to the medication. A common side effect is nausea (feeling sick) which can be lessened by taking gradual doses. Some people will not reach the maintenance dose of 3mg a day because of the side effects they experience.

What happens if I miss a dose of Saxenda?

If you have missed your dose and it is within 12 hours from when you would usually take it, you can still inject your dose. If it is more than 12 hours, skip the missed dose and carry on as normal when your next dose is due. Never take a double dose or increase your next dose to make up for a missed dose.

What happens if I overdose?

If you use more Saxenda than you have been prescribed, speak to your GP or visit A&E straight away. You might need medical treatment. Take your medication with you. You may get the following side effects:

  • nausea or vomiting (feeling or being sick)
  • low blood sugar (hypoglycemia)

Side effects of Saxenda

Saxenda can have some side effects which should be reduced by increasing your dose gradually over 5 weeks. Not everybody will get side effects. If you do and they do not go away once your body gets used to the treatment, speak to your online doctor.

Are there any serious side effects of Saxenda?

Saxenda can cause some serious side effects, such as:

  • a severe allergic reaction (anaphylaxis), which can cause breathing difficulties, a fast heartbeat, and swelling in the face and mouth
  • inflammation of the pancreas (pancreatitis), which can cause persistent and severe pain in the stomach, nausea, and vomiting

Stop taking Saxenda straight away and visit A&E if you get any of these side effects.

Are there any mild side effects of Saxenda?

Saxenda can cause some mild side effects. The most common side effects include:

  • nausea or vomiting (feeling or being sick)
  • constipation or diarrhoea

These side effects usually go away after a few weeks.

Common side effects include:

  • feeling weak or tired
  • indigestion, heartburn, feeling bloated, wind, belching, dry mouth
  • dizziness
  • change in taste
  • difficulty sleeping
  • gallstones
  • low blood sugar
  • problems at the injection sites, such as pain, itching, rash, bruising, or irritation

Uncommon side effects include:

  • inflamed gallbladder
  • faster pulse
  • dehydration, which is likely to occur when you first start taking Saxenda and are vomiting or having diarrhoea
  • skin rash
  • feeling generally unwell

Managing side effects

Nausea is the most common side effect of Saxenda, but it usually goes away within a few weeks. If you get nausea, there are some things you can do to help, such as:

  • eating smaller meals more frequently
  • getting plenty of fresh air
  • distracting yourself, with things like TV, books, games, or music
  • taking sips of cold water or fizzy drinks
  • eating foods that contain ginger, such as ginger biscuits
  • drinking peppermint or ginger tea

You should also avoid some things, such as:

  • eating fatty, spicy, greasy, or strong-smelling foods
  • eating too quickly
  • having a large drink with meals
  • lying down straight after eating

Frequently asked questions

Below are some frequently asked questions that can help you to use Saxenda correctly. If you still have questions, speak to your online doctor.

How do I store my Saxenda pen correctly?

Always keep Saxenda out of reach of children. Do not use it after the expiry date.

Your medication will arrive in temperature controlled packaging. It is important to put it in the fridge as soon as you get it and to keep it in the fridge. It should be stored between 2°C and 8°C. Do not freeze.

Once you have started using a pen you can keep it for 1 month. It can be stored in a fridge or at room temperature, as long as the room is below 30°C. When you are not using your pen, keep the cap on to protect it from the light.

How long can you take Saxenda for?

You can keep taking Saxenda for as long as you need and your online doctor will regularly assess your treatment. If you get side effects that do not go away or bother you too much, your online doctor might consider stopping Saxenda. Do not stop taking your medication without speaking to your online doctor.

What time of day should I take my Saxenda dose?

You can take your Saxenda dose at any time of the day, as long as you take it at the same time each day. Find a time that works for you to make sure you remember. You do not need to take it with meals.

How long does a Saxenda pen last?

If you are taking the maintenance dose of 3mg a day, each Saxenda pen should last for 6 days.

When should I stop using Saxenda?

You should stop using Saxenda when your online doctor tells you to, if it is not working, or if the side effects bother you too much. If you want to stop taking Saxenda, speak to your online doctor first.

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: 05 Jan 2022

Last reviewed: 15 Mar 2022

(Reviews are for ZAVA UK)

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