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Many of my patients have been asking me about this medication and if it is suitable for them after reading about it in the press. Here is what you need to know.

This medication is already approved for diabetes treatment.
It belongs to a family of drugs called GLP-1 (or glucagon like peptide-1). It has recently been studied for weight loss and there’s been a trial of 2,000 patients that have shown a 14.9% total body weight loss compared with 2.9% in the placebo group over 68 weeks. It is now being studied further to be approved as a weight loss drug.

There is another drug called Liraglutide which is related to Semaglutide which is already approved for weight loss. This is also known as Saxenda. This is a daily injection. This too was originally used for diabetes and then found to be good for weight loss as it influences the hunger hormones and also managing sugars. There are side effects to both these drugs, the main ones being nausea, vomiting or abdominal pains. There is also a risk of acute pancreatitis and more seriously thyroid cancer, so taking a drug like this is serious and should be monitored.   

What’s the difference between Saxenda and Ozempic?
Saxenda is a daily injection which is licensed already to be prescribed for people with a BMI of 30 or over, or 27 with a risk factor such as raised blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes or a family history of cardiovascular disease. Ozempic is not licensed yet as it is being further studied for this use but is a once weekly injection.

What I have found in my experience in prescribing these type of drugs.
This is no quick fix to losing weight. I have seen people use it and not much lose weight due to eating badly and not managing their diet and exercise. It seems to only work if you are on a dedicated weight management plan already. It definitely can help shift stubborn weight if you are already committed to diet and exercise.

Bear in mind, the weight loss of almost 15% of body weight took over a year in the trial. So, this isn’t a quick fix at all. So that means if you weighed 90kg it would take over a year to lose 13.5kg (29.7 lbs or 2.13 stones). It is good but certainly not a quick fix.   

How it feels when you take these medications.
From personal experience, you definitely have a reduced appetite. You can occasionally feel nauseous from time to time or if eating fatty or sugary foods. As I’ve said before, it only seems to work if you are following a good diet and exercising.

I have seen this medication really help patients who have struggled with weight loss despite a good lifestyle. This has particularly been helpful in menopausal women where there can be a weight gain as the hormones change. But remember, if used as a quick fix without getting to the root of the weight issues or changing lifestyle, when you stop the medication the weight can come back on. Also, the medication is not cheap, with a box of Saxenda costing over £300. However, it may be a great option to help tackle obesity and consequently the other health issues it can cause.

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Dr Sohère Roked

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