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Do Weight Loss Shots Work?

Medical weight loss patients have significantly more — and better — options today than even a decade ago. That’s thanks in large part to the arrival of two new weight loss medications, both of which are regarded as safe and effective when used under the supervision of board certified professionals with adequate medical weight loss training.

These medications are best known by their brand names, Saxenda® and Wegovy®. Let’s take a look at their effectiveness in clinical trials, the types of patients they’re likely to work best in, and top alternatives.

Do FDA-Approved Weight Loss Shots Work?

The two weight loss shots approved by the Food and Drug Administration for use in the United States are Saxenda and Wegovy. Both are injectable — once daily for Saxenda and once weekly for Wegovy. 

Here’s how these two weight loss medications compare for people looking to lose weight.

Saxenda: Formulation, Dosing, and Effectiveness

Saxenda first received FDA approval in 2014, predating Wegovy by several years. It’s a glucagon-like peptide-1 agonist (GLP-1 agonist) that helps reduce blood sugar and appetite during and after mealtimes.

The starting dose of Saxenda is typically 0.6 mg. Dosing slowly increases to 3 mg if needed over the course of several weeks. Unlike Wegovy, Saxenda is approved for use in adolescents over age 12.

Saxenda promotes weight loss but not in dramatic fashion. A recent clinical trial found a 6% reduction in patients’ body weight over 68 weeks.

Wegovy: Formulation, Dosing, and Effectiveness

Wegovy (semaglutide) is a newer weight loss medication. It is also a GLP-1 receptor agonist, a type of compound initially developed to treat type 2 diabetes. Wegovy stimulates the pancreas’s production of insulin, reducing blood sugar and increasing feelings of fullness after meals.

The starting dose of Wegovy is 0.25 mg. Dosing gradually increases as needed to 2.4 mg, the full dose for adults.

Wegovy appears more effective in reducing patients’ body weight in clinical trials. During the 68-week trial, ending body weight compared to Saxenda was 16% lower than pretrial weight, a much more impressive reduction.

Common Side Effects of Wegovy and Saxenda

Both Wegovy and Saxenda have some side effects. Most are mild; they include:

  • Constipation
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Abdominal pain and nausea
  • Upset stomach
  • Headache
  • Fatigue

More serious side effects are rare but may include allergic reaction, pancreatitis (inflammation of the pancreas), gallbladder issues, abnormally low blood sugar, and a specific type of thyroid tumor. Patients with a history of thyroid cancer shouldn’t take either drug.

Alternatives to Wegovy and Saxenda

Wegovy and Saxenda aren’t the only nonsurgical solutions for obesity and weight-related medical issues. Two that deserve special mention are MIC injections and supervised changes to diet and exercise behaviors.

MIC Fat Burning Injections

MIC stands for “methionine, inositol, [and] choline.” These three essential amino acids may be injected on their own or in combination with high doses of Vitamin B12 to stimulate the body’s natural fat burning processes.

MIC injections have relatively few known side effects, but they’re still best administered by trained medical providers who’ve completed advanced weight loss certification. The efficacy profile is mixed — many patients report losing weight and keeping it off, but the FDA hasn’t approved MIC injections for obesity treatment.

Diet and Exercise

For patients who don’t want to take weight loss medication or aren’t good fits for Wegovy or Saxenda, a reduced calorie diet and increased exercise is a viable, lower-risk alternative. 

Diet and exercise may help control obesity-related conditions such as high blood pressure and type 2 diabetes. However, maintaining a healthy weight in the long term is often more difficult without medication or other interventions.