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What’s the Difference Between Semaglutide and Liraglutide?

Obesity or excessive body weight has been a growing concern across the US. Without proper weight management, it may lead to other severe health conditions like type 2 diabetes or high risk for a near-fatal cardiovascular outcome. While the only direct treatment seems to be bariatric surgery, there are other treatments available like weight loss-inducing medications such as semaglutide and liraglutide.

So what’s the difference between semaglutide vs liraglutide? Weekly subcutaneous semaglutide injections have been found to have greater weight loss from the baseline body weight and had a larger effect on appetite than once daily subcutaneous liraglutide injections. Though semaglutide and liraglutide have similar side effects, the former has a slight increase in occurrence due to the necessity of higher dosages.

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How Semaglutide and Liraglutide Can Help With Weight Loss

Semaglutide and liraglutide are defined as a GLP-1 receptor agonist (GLP-1 RA). They mimic a hormone that signals the creation of insulin to regulate the blood sugar level of the body after consuming food.

Its main function is to limit how much blood sugar is ingested and processed in the body. In higher doses, it can even affect how the brain responds to appetite, allowing the patient to feel full faster and eat less. It could even slow the digestion process in the small intestine, lengthening the feeling of fullness after meals.

Their full weight loss effects are done in combination with a low-calorie, low-fat, and low-carb diet and a consistent exercise routine over months. Some patients report that the weight loss results can be observed in the first 4 weeks. Stopping the dosage may result in the body regaining the lost body weight from the trial period but can be used for long-term type 2 diabetes care.

Other than glycemic control and weight loss, they may produce benefits such as lowering the risk of heart disease, heart attack, stroke, and kidney disease. Semaglutide was noted in one study published in the New England Journal of Medicine to have improved physical activity. Some of these benefits could be due to the rapid rate of weight loss provided by the drug.

The Timeline of Semaglutide and Liraglutide

These drugs were approved for the treatment of type 2 diabetes in 2014 for semaglutide and 2017 for liraglutide, both produced by Novo Nordisk. The latter of which was used for pediatric patients who were 10 years old or older diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. Its effect on the blood sugar level of the body helps it become an available treatment for type 2 diabetes care and could potentially curb it through its additional weight management benefits.

The First Phase

The first of these two drugs that were approved for weight management was liraglutide, in 2020, for patients aged 12 and above who are diagnosed with obesity, whose BMI is 30 kg/m2 or higher in adults, or those who weigh over 60 kg. The product, Saxenda, made by Novo Nordisk is meant to be an adjunct for intense physical exercise and a low-calorie diet.

The Second Phase

2 years later, in 2022, the approval was granted to Novo Nordisk for semaglutide for weight loss treatments. This was prescribed for overweight or obese adults with one weight-related condition like type 2 diabetes and those with a BMI of 27 kg/m2 or those with a BMI of 30 kg/m2 and higher.

Limitations in Taking Semaglutide and Liraglutide

These drugs can’t be taken together as they are both GLP-1 receptor agonists. They also can’t be taken with other products that are designed for weight loss like herbal products that are advertised as such, prescription drugs meant to induce weight loss, and over-the-counter drugs. They may not be prescribed with those with a history of pancreatitis or gallstones. Other treatments that regulate blood sugar level like insulin should not be combined with these drugs.

Comparison between Semaglutide and Liraglutide

With the similarities between its effects, manufacturer, and prescription requirements, it can be difficult to choose which of these weight management drugs is best for your needs, health condition, and weight loss goals. Read below to find out the crucial differences between these two treatments.

Main Differences

While they are produced by the same manufacturer, Novo Nordisk, they have a list of key differences. One of which is dosage size — weekly semaglutide injections begin with 0.25 mg each week, being slowly risen to 2.4mg for maximum effectiveness. Daily subcutaneous liraglutide injections start with 0.6 mg, capping out at 3 mg.

The dosage for both drugs slowly increases to allow the body to adapt to it, lowering the potential and severity of an adverse event. The rate of dosage increase will be mediated by your doctor or healthcare provider to monitor your body for any reactions or side effects.

However, despite what may be a larger dosage throughout the week for subcutaneous liraglutide injections, a clinical study published in the Jama Network in January 2022 discovered that semaglutide has a longer half-life than liraglutide. Liraglutide lasts 13 to 15 hours while Semaglutide lasts 165 hours. This means that the feeling of fullness lasts longer and is more pronounced in once weekly subcutaneous semaglutide injections.

Another main difference is in its prescription. Liraglutide was first produced for the weight management of obese adolescents as its focus group. By targeting those aged 12 to 17, the treatment helped alleviate the obesity epidemic before they can develop into adults with overweight or obesity. Due to the higher half-life in semaglutide, its research with a clinical trial was prioritized over liraglutide.

If the patient is below adult age and is diagnosed with obesity, liraglutide may be an effective weight reduction solution for them outside of direct weight reduction surgery like bariatric surgery. However, the daily self-injections may seem like an inconvenience to some compared to the weekly injections of semaglutide.

The study from the JAMA Network, however, noted that the once daily subcutaneous liraglutide injections may be beneficial for diabetes care. They reported that there was no substantial difference in treatment satisfaction in patients with type 2 diabetes, concluding that it may have been due to the glycemic control from liraglutide, despite the advantages of semaglutide.

Semaglutide vs Liraglutide for Weight Loss

Though both drugs can provide developments from cardiometabolic risks, greater glycemic control, normalizing blood pressure levels, and provide easier weight management, they provide varying weight loss results when done with a proper diet and an exercise routine.

In a landmark study published in the New England Journal of Medicine in March 2021, 1,961 obese patients who did not have type 2 diabetes participated in a clinical trail where they were administered 2.4mg once weekly subcutaneous semaglutide injections or a placebo throughout a 64-week period.

The average weight loss of the participants from the semaglutide group was 14.9% from their baseline body weight compared to the 2.5% loss of weight from the placebo group. The study also compared these results with the 4.0% to the 10.9% baseline body weight from other anti-obesity medications

In a 2015 study in the same medical journal, a 56-week clinical trial was done for liraglutide with overweight and obese adults without type 2 diabetes. They were injected with 3.0mg of daily liraglutide injections or a placebo.

The results showed that the 63.2% of the participants which made up the liraglutide group lost more than 5% of their baseline body weight than the placebo group, composed of 27.1% of the participants. About 33.1% of the liraglutide group was able to reduce more than 10% of their body weight. The liraglutide group lost an average of 8.4±7.3kg of body weight while the placebo group shedded off an average of 2.8±6.5 kg.

In a study that compared both of these treatments, posted in JAMA Network in Jan 2022, 338 adults with overweight or obesity were given without type 2 diabetes either weight loss drug or a placebo over a 68-week period.

The mean weight reduction was -15.8% in the semaglutide group and -6.4% in the liraglutide group. The researchers concluded that the weight loss difference between the two weight loss drugs is -9.4 percentage points with a 95 CI (Confidence Interval).

From these studies, it can be derived that semaglutide can bring about more weight loss than liraglutide over a 68-week period. However, that is not to say that the weight loss from liraglutide is insignificant as a 5% weight reduction is enough to substantially increase your body’s overall health.

Comparison of Their Expected Side Effects

Given how these weight loss drugs modify how the body processes appetite, blood sugar, and digestion, they can manifest unwanted side effects from the initial use. Fortunately, most of these adverse events can be resolved within the treatment timeline and by reinforcing the diet to suit the body’s needs. If these adverse events persist after a few weeks, increase to a severe level, cause pain, or create an allergic reaction, seek medical attention immediately. 

Due to the increased dosage needed in semaglutide injections, lesser side effects may occur more commonly compared to liraglutide injections. In the clinical trial published in JAMA Network, 84.1% of the semaglutide group and 82.7% of the liraglutide group reported gastrointestinal disorders like nausea, diarrhea, indigestion, vomiting, and stomach pain. These adverse events were experienced in mild to moderate severity and went down naturally. 

However, more participants from the liraglutide group (12.6%) discontinued treatment compared to the semaglutide group (3.2%) due to serious adverse events like persistent medical disorders or malignant neoplasms. These disastrous side effects were experienced by 7.9% of the semaglutide group and 11% of the liraglutide group. 

There was also a slight increase in mental health-related difficulties like depression, anxiety, and additional fatigue in the liraglutide group (5.5%) relative to the semaglutide group (2.4%). This was due to additional reports of insomnia and suicidal ideation from the liraglutide group. 

Why Choose Semaglutide Over Liraglutide

a woman injects semaglutide on her belly

As stated in the studies cited above, semaglutide seems to edge out liraglutide in weight loss results, changes in appetite signaling, frequency of use, and a slightly lower effect on mental health. Though they have similar side effects, semaglutide is reputed to have a lower percentage of serious adverse events.

Liraglutide can be an option for patients who are not of legal age and are also diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. Consult your doctor or healthcare provider for the best weight loss drug for your current health condition and body weight.

How to Maximize the Benefits of Semaglutide

These injectables are unable to develop their promised weight loss effects without a rigorous weight management regime to optimize their effects. Follow these steps to ensure you’re well on the way to reaching your ideal body weight.

1. Follow a Strict Diet

To enact weight management, consistency is key. With the effects of the weight loss drug, it’s integral to eat foods that are low-fat, low-carb, high in protein, or high in fiber to burn down stubborn fats and provide the body with the energy it needs without using a lot of calories. Don’t cut any meals as it may lead to hypoglycemia — low blood sugar level.

2. Exercise Frequently

Exercising with a lighter diet can help ward off the harmful effects of obesity like high blood pressure, low energy levels, and reduce the risk of heart conditions. Start with cardio, conditioning exercising, or any exercise your doctor recommends to start slowly incorporating physical activity into your daily life.

3. Get a Skinny IV Drip

While there aren’t a lot of medications that can be combined with semaglutide, an IV drip is an effective way of supplementing the body with additional nutrients to fight off obesity. At Dr. V Medical Aesthetics, we offer our Skinny IV Drip that contains essential vitamins and lipotropics to naturally increase the body’s metabolism to shed off excess body weight.

Safe and High-quality Semaglutide Injections at Dr. V Medical Aesthetics

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When choosing the best injectable for weight loss, most studies and doctors will refer to semaglutide for its effective weight loss results and manageable side effects. The next step is to receive the treatment from a trusted medical provider that can pair you with the best weight loss program for your body weight.

At Dr. V Medical Aesthetics, we can provide you with the most effective semaglutide treatments. With our anti-diabetic medications and their weight loss benefits, we can help you achieve your dream body and do your day-to-day activities with ease and comfort. Start your health journey with us and schedule an appointment with us today.


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