The prevalence of obesity in the U.S. has surged over the years. In 1999, approximately 30.5% of U.S. adults were classified as obese, which escalated to 41.9% by 2020. The implications of obesity are far-reaching, elevating the risk of chronic conditions such as type 2 diabetes, hypertension, heart disease, and certain types of cancer.
For individuals struggling with obesity, weight loss is a recommended course of action, often involving the integration of medications into their strategy. Victoza (liraglutide), while not FDA-approved for weight loss, has been recognized for its weight loss effects. Its FDA approval, however, is for treating type 2 diabetes.
In 2014, a related liraglutide product, Saxenda, gained FDA approval for weight loss in patients without diabetes. Given that both Victoza and Saxenda contain liraglutide, the question arises: can Victoza also contribute to weight loss efforts?
Let's find out!
What is Victoza?
Victoza is a brand name for liraglutide and a daily injectable medication approved by the FDA to lower blood sugar and A1C in children (aged 10 and above) and adults with type 2 diabetes. Victoza also effectively reduces the risk of major cardiovascular events such as heart attack, stroke, or death in adults with type 2 diabetes with known heart disease. It belongs to the class of glucagon-like peptide-1 receptor agonists (GLP-1 agonists).
NOTE: GLP-1 agonists mimic the action of GLP-1, a hormone that regulates blood sugar levels and has additional effects on weight management. Other examples of GLP-1 medications include Dulaglutide (Trulicity) and Semaglutide (Wegovy and Ozempic).
How Does Victoza Help You Lose Weight?
While Victoza is manufactured to control blood sugar levels associated with type 2 diabetes, studies have shown the medication also has weight loss effects. This can happen through Appetite suppression, slow stomach emptying, and increased insulin sensitivity.
- Appetite suppression: Liraglutide, the active ingredient in Victoza, promotes a feeling of satiety (fullness), which affects your appetite and food cravings. This decreased desire for food makes it easier to adhere to healthier eating habits and lose weight over time.
- Slower stomach emptying: Liraglutide mimics GLP-1, which increases the time it takes for food to travel through your digestive tract. This makes you feel fuller for extended periods and facilitates weight loss.
- Increased insulin sensitivity: Glucagon-like peptide-1 receptor agonists combat insulin resistance by boosting the expression of glucose transporters in insulin-dependent tissues, lowering inflammation, decreasing oxidative stress, and influencing lipid metabolism. The more insulin-sensitive you are, the better your chances of losing weight. This is because improved insulin function aids the body in effectively utilizing glucose and reduces excess fat storage.
What is the Victoza Dosage for Weight Loss?
The Victoza dosage for diabetes is typically 0.6 mg, 1.2 mg, or 1.8 mg daily, depending on your glycemic control requirement. However, no particular dose is recommended for weight loss since the medication is not FDA-approved for weight management.
When prescribed off-label for weight loss, your healthcare provider may determine the proper dosage and adjust it periodically based on your response and tolerability.
Do not use Victoza as part of your weight management strategy unless your doctor prescribes it.
If you miss a Victoza dose, you can continue your regularly scheduled dose the following day. Don't take an extra dose to make up for the missed one.
If you miss three consecutive doses, your doctor may reinitiate the medication at the initial starting dose to reduce the chances of gastrointestinal symptoms.
An alarm clock or a reminder app will go a long way to keep you updated if you need help remembering to take your dose of Victoza on time.
How to use Victoza
Victoza is administered using a pen and needle. It's injected subcutaneously (under the skin) once daily. Your doctor will guide you through the injection process the first time you use the medication. Detailed instructions are also provided with each Victoza pen package. An instructional video is also available for visual guidance.
Using Victoza pens requires NEW compatible needles, which you'll attach before each dose. Victoza doesn't come with pen needles; these must be obtained separately from your local pharmacy.
Since some states may require a prescription for pen needles, it's best to consult your pharmacist or doctor for such important information.
To inject Victoza, insert the needle into your skin on the abdomen, thigh, or upper arm. Do not inject the medicine into a muscle or vein. Press down on the center of the dose button to inject until "0 mg" lines up with the pointer. Ensure the dose button is pressed down, and keep the needle under your skin for at least 6 seconds. During withdrawal, your thumb should remain on the injection button until the entire needle is out of your skin.
To prevent skin thickening near injection points, we recommend you change your injection sites for each dose between the abdomen, upper arms, and thighs.
Always detach the injection needle from your Victoza pen before you store the pen. And make sure to dispose of each used needle in an FDA-approved sharps container.NOTE: Do not discard used needles in your household trash. Never share your Victoza pen with others, even if the needle has been replaced. Sharing may lead to serious infections, putting both parties at risk.
How Fast Does Victoza Work?
How fast Victoza works varies from person to person and depends on their unique circumstances and what they take it for. Your initial body weight, dosing adjustments, diet choices, and exercise types can also determine how much weight you will lose and how fast.
If you take Victoza for type 2 diabetes, it starts working within hours after injection. Still, you will typically experience lower blood sugar levels as soon as two weeks. But it may take several weeks for you to start noticing weight loss.
Keep going if your blood sugar levels have not decreased significantly by Week 3 or you have yet to lose weight by the 6th week. It's normal for the medication to take a bit longer for some people to notice any long-term benefits, but that doesn't mean it's not working.
In a study that investigated the efficacy of consuming 3 mg of liraglutide daily, participants lost an average of 4.1 kg (about 9 lb) through exercise alone, 6.8 kg (about 15 lb) with Liraglutide alone, and a substantial 9.5 kg (about 21 lb) when combining Liraglutide with exercise.
Suppose your response is insufficient (weight loss of less than 5% at three to four months) despite strict adherence to dosing instructions. In that case, your doctor may discontinue the medicine because the risks and treatment costs might outweigh the long-term benefits.
If you feel uncomfortable about not noticing changes as fast as you expected, it's best to seek your doctor's advice on the way forward.
Victoza Side Effects
While serving many benefits, Victoza may also cause some side effects, ranging from mild and common to severe and rare.
Common Side Effects
- Loss of appetite
- Weight loss
- Injection site reactions, such as redness, itching, or swelling.
These common side effects are usually mild and temporal. In most cases, they wear off within a few weeks. Please, talk to your doctor or pharmacist if your symptoms are ongoing and bothersome.
Serious Side Effects
Victoza can lead to the following severe effects, which require URGENT medical attention:
- Possible thyroid tumors (which may be cancerous): Notify your healthcare provider if you observe neck swelling or lump, hoarseness, difficulty swallowing, or breath shortness. These might indicate thyroid cancer. Studies involving rodents showed that Victoza and similar medications triggered thyroid tumors, including cancer. Whether Victoza causes thyroid tumors or medullary thyroid carcinoma (MTC) in humans remains unknown.
- Kidney Issues (Kidney Failure): For individuals with existing kidney problems, dehydration triggered by diarrhea, nausea, and vomiting can exacerbate kidney problems.
- Severe Allergic Reactions: Discontinue Victoza immediately and seek medical attention if you notice symptoms of a severe allergic reaction. These symptoms include facial, lip, tongue, or throat swelling, breathing or swallowing difficulties, intense rash or itching, fainting, dizziness, or rapid heartbeat.
- Gallbladder Concerns: Victoza use has been linked to gallbladder problems in some individuals. Notify your healthcare provider promptly if you encounter symptoms such as upper stomach pain, fever, nausea, vomiting, or yellowing of the skin or eyes.
- Pancreas Inflammation (Pancreatitis): If persistent abdominal pain (which may radiate to the back) occurs, accompanied by vomiting or not, please stop Victoza use and immediately inform your healthcare provider.
- Severe Low Blood Sugar (Hypoglycemia): When using Victoza alongside medications like sulfonylureas or insulin that can induce low blood sugar, the risk of hypoglycemia increases. This risk is elevated in children (10 and older), even when not combined with other blood sugar-lowering medications. Recognizable signs include dizziness, blurred vision, anxiety, sweating, slurred speech, hunger, confusion, shakiness, weakness, headache, rapid heartbeat, and jitteriness.
Who Should Not Take Victoza?
Since Victoza has a boxed warning for the risk of thyroid tumors, your doctor will not prescribe it if you, or any family member, have a history of medullary thyroid carcinoma. Victoza is also not recommended if you have Multiple Endocrine Neoplasia syndrome type 2 (MEN 2), a condition affecting the endocrine system.
If a patient is pregnant, breastfeeding, or wishes to become pregnant, treatment with Victoza should be discontinued due to limited safety data. Victoza should only be used during pregnancy if the potential benefit justifies the potential risk to the fetus.
Other people that should not take Victoza include,
- Children under the age of 10
- Individuals with existing severe gastrointestinal disease.
- Victoza has not been studied extensively in patients with a history of pancreatitis to know if they are at higher risk for developing pancreatitis while using the medicine. For this reason, it should be used cautiously in patients who have had pancreatitis.
NOTE: Before using Victoza, inform your healthcare provider about any other medical conditions you have or have had.
What is the Difference Between Saxena, Victoza, and Ozempic?
While Saxenda, Victoza, and Ozempic all belong to the same class of medications known as glucagon-like peptide-1 receptor agonists, they are prescribed differently and may serve different purposes.
Saxenda has liraglutide as an active ingredient and is specifically approved by the FDA for weight management. It is administered through a daily injection and can aid weight loss in obese individuals who struggle to lose weight through diet and exercise alone.
Victoza, just like Saxenda, contains liraglutide but is only approved for type 2 diabetes management. It helps control blood glucose levels, reduces HbA1c, and improves insulin sensitivity. While not primarily approved for weight loss, it has demonstrated weight-reducing effects. Both Victoza and Saxenda are typically initiated at 0.6 mg daily doses. However, Victoza's maximum dose is 1.8 mg daily, while Saxenda is 3 mg.
Ozempic contains another active ingredient with different dosing instructions than the other two: Semaglutide. The recommended starting dose of Ozempic (Semaglutide) is 0.25 mg, with a maximum dose of 2 mg. Unlike Victoza and Saxenda, Ozempic is a once-weekly injection.
The primary commonality between Ozempic and the two other medications is that they all belong to the same GLP-1 agonist drug class. And just like Victoza, Ozempic also helps manage blood glucose levels and is approved for type 2 diabetes treatment. Although not approved for weight management, it has also shown significant weight loss effects.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is Victoza Safe for Long-Term Use?
Yes. Victoza is designed to manage a chronic condition like type-2 diabetes and its associated weight gain. You can remain on Victoza as advised by your doctor, provided you enjoy the ongoing benefits with little or no side effects. In a clinical trial, only 16% of participants discontinued due to side effects from Victoza. In the same trial, while 20% of the participants complained of side effects during the first four months, by the 20th month, only 2% reported side effects. This implies that most of the reported adverse reactions are temporal. Hence, Victoza is generally safe for long-term use. NOTE: Victoza is unsafe if you have a personal or family history of medullary thyroid cancer (a rare type of thyroid cancer) or multiple endocrine neoplasia syndrome type 2 (MEN 2).
How Much Weight Can You Lose in a Month on Victoza?
While Victoza can control type 2 diabetes and improve weight management, people will respond to treatment differently. So a patient is expected to lose no stipulated weight within a month of taking the medication. The Victoza weight loss effect is gradual and long-term.
Can a Doctor Prescribe Victoza for Weight Loss?
Most doctors prescribe an approved GLP-1 receptor agonist like Saxenda for weight loss. But an off-label Victoza prescription for weight management is still a possibility in some cases.
Can I Take Victoza if I am not Diabetic?
Victoza isn't FDA-approved for non-diabetic individuals. However, the FDA approves Saxenda, also containing liraglutide, for weight loss. As a non-diabetic, consult your healthcare provider to discuss suitable options like Saxenda or other GLP-1 agonists.
Victoza is a GLP-1 agonist approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for type-2 diabetes treatment. However, as a once-daily subcutaneous injection, it has demonstrated weight loss benefits in both diabetic and non-diabetic individuals, despite lacking specific FDA approval for weight management.
Another medication, Saxenda, shares Victoza's active ingredient (liraglutide) and is FDA-approved for weight loss. Saxenda's higher 3 mg dose has shown more efficacy than Victoza's 1.2 and 1.8 mg regarding weight management.Nonetheless, whether for weight loss or type-2 diabetes management, it's crucial to take liraglutide and other GLP-1 receptor agonists only as recommended by a doctor who will consider the long-term benefits and the potential side effects.