Saxenda Patient Information Hub

Dr Kathryn Basford

Medically reviewed by

Dr Kathryn Basford

Last reviewed: 11 Aug 2022

If you're just getting started with Saxenda treatment, you might have questions on everything from how to administer your medication to side effects. You can use this page as a guide to help you on your Saxenda journey. You can also reach out to a ZAVA doctor through your patient account.


What is Saxenda?

Saxenda is an injectable pen containing the active ingredient liraglutide. It is used as a weight loss treatment alongside a diet and exercise plan. Liraglutide is similar to glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1) which is a natural hormone that is released after food. It tells your brain that you have eaten and are full.

In the same way, Saxenda is used to release liraglutide into your bloodstream, which sends a message to your brain that you are full. This means you are less likely to feel hungry so you can reduce your food intake, which will help you to lose weight.

What is Saxenda used for?

Saxenda is used as a weight loss treatment. It can be prescribed to you if you are over 18 and have:

  • a BMI (body mass index) over 30 kg/m²
  • a health issue that can affect your weight, such as diabetes, sleep apnoea, or high blood pressure (hypertension) and a BMI between 27 kg/m² and 30 kg/m²

You can quickly check your BMI. The Health Service Executive (HSE) recommends this free BMI calculator. You will need to know your weight and height, as this is how your BMI is calculated.

How do I take Saxenda?

Saxenda is an injectable pen that is used to administer the medication into your body. There are instructions included within your medication pack, or for more information on taking Saxenda, please see below. You can ask your online doctor if you still need help.

To get the best results from Saxenda, you should follow the diet and exercise plan given to you by your doctor.

How long does a Saxenda pen last?

The dose of Saxenda increases slowly to allow your body to get used to the medication and to reduce side effects. This means it is not always possible to give a time frame for how long each of your Saxenda pens will last.

Depending on which treatment stage you are at, you can expect one Saxenda pen to last between a few days to about 2.5 weeks. When you reach the maintenance dose of 3mg a day, one Saxenda pen will last for 6 days.

How to administer Saxenda

Your Saxenda pen should only be used with NovoTwist® or NovoFine® needles. They should be no longer than 8mm with a size of 32G. You can request a prescription with needles from us. Otherwise you can buy these separately from a pharmacy and your pharmacist can tell you which ones you need.

Always read the instructions included within your Saxenda packet or follow this guide before administering Saxenda for the first time. If you are blind or have poor eyesight, you should get someone to help you.

1. Check your medication

Before using any medication, you should check the dose. As your Saxenda dose will change over time, you must do this before every dose. Check the name of your pen, to make sure it is Saxenda. This is especially important if you have other injectable medications, like insulin.

You should also check the colour of the medication. The liquid inside your Saxenda pen should be colourless, or almost colourless. If the liquid in the pen is cloudy, you should not use it.

2. Attach a new needle

Before attaching a new needle, wash your hands for at least 20 seconds with soap and water. Never attach a needle unless you are ready for your dose. You should use a new needle for every dose.

Take a fresh needle and remove the paper tab. You can then push the needle onto your Saxenda pen and keep turning until the needle is on tightly. Remove the outer cap from the needle, keeping it close by. You will use this again later to dispose of the needle safely.

Remove the inner needle cap, which can be thrown in the bin. Sometimes a drop of liquid will form on the needle which is normal. You will still need to complete step 3 if you are using a new Saxenda pen.

3. Check the flow with each new pen

When you first get your Saxenda pen, you need to check the flow. If the pen is not new or you have already done this, you can go to the next step.

Firstly, use the dose selector to choose the correct dose. Your Saxenda pen should show a “flow check” symbol. To see what this looks like, check the patient information leaflet included with your pen.

Once the dose is ready, point the needle downwards and press and hold until the dose counter reaches 0. A drop of liquid should form at the end of the needle. Some medication might stay at the tip of the needle but it is still fine to use.

If you follow these steps and no liquid appears, you should repeat this step again. You can do this up to 6 times. After this, try changing the needle and repeating the process, as the needle may be blocked. If a new needle does not work, you should dispose of your Saxenda pen and use another one.

4. Select your dose

Check your dose against your treatment plan, to make sure you are injecting the right amount of medicine into your body. The dose selector can be turned backwards and forwards to reach the correct dose, up to a maximum of 3mg. There is a small window where you can read the dose.

Once your pen has less than 3mg, the dose selector will not turn any further. If you need a 3mg dose, you will have to use another pen, unless you have been trained to split doses between pens. The pen will click when you turn it but there is no need to count this, as it does not correlate with the doses.

5. Inject your dose

Once you have selected the correct dose, you are ready to inject the medication. You can choose the injection site. The best place is the front of your abdomen (below your stomach), but you can also use the front of your thigh or the top of your arm. Never inject your medicine into a vein or muscle.

Insert the needle into your chosen injection site with the dose counter facing towards you. Hold the dose button down until the dose counter says 0. This should line up with the pointer. Never cover the dose counter while injecting, as this could interrupt the flow of medication. When your dose is done, you should feel or hear a click.

Once the dose counter says 0, keep the needle in your skin for another 6 seconds. You can use a timer or watch or simply count to 6 slowly. Removing the needle too early means you may not get all of the dose. If you remove it too early, do not take another dose to make up for this.

After 6 seconds, remove the needle slowly from your skin. This can sometimes cause light bleeding, which is normal. Press on the area with a tissue or piece of gauze until the bleeding stops and you may want to apply a plaster. Avoid rubbing the injection area. After removing the needle you may notice a small drop of liquid at the end. This is normal and does not mean you have missed any of your dose.

6. Remove needle after your injection

When the needle has been removed from your skin, use the outer needle cap from earlier to safely dispose of the needle. Never touch the needle with your fingers, as this could cause you to hurt yourself.

Once the needle is covered, make sure the outer cap is on completely and unscrew the needle from your Saxenda pen and throw it away. After you have finished with your Saxenda pen you should put the cap back on to protect it.

Tips for administering Saxenda

When administering Saxenda, there are some helpful tips to remember which are listed below.

  1. To protect your skin you should use a new injection site each day. This means you can use a different part of your body, like your thigh instead of your abdomen, or you can use a different part of your abdomen.
  2. Never reuse a needle. You will always be given enough needles when you order your Saxenda pen from us. If you need more, speak to your online doctor. If a needle is bent or damaged do not use it.
  3. You should always make sure the dosage counter says 0 before counting to 6. If 0 does not appear, you can press the dose button again. If it still does not appear, this means the medicine has not been injected and there may be a blockage in the needle. You can start the process again if this happens.
  4. You should use Saxenda at the same time each day for best results. Find a time of the day that works best for you, such as in the morning.
  5. Never share your needles or Saxenda pen with anyone else. Saxenda must be prescribed to you.
  6. You can take Saxenda with or without food and drink.

Saxenda Dosage Information

When you first start taking Saxenda, you will be prescribed a lower dose which will be gradually increased over 5 weeks. Your online doctor will let you know how much you need to take each week, until you reach the maintenance dose of 3mg a day.

Saxenda dosage is usually increased as follows:

  • 0.6 mg a day in week 1
  • 1.2mg a day in week 2
  • 1.8mg a day in week 3
  • 2.4mg a day in week 4
  • 3mg a day from week 5 onwards

Your dosage may be increased at a slower rate if you have side effects. Your online doctor will assess how well Saxenda is working throughout your treatment.

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

Saxenda has some common side effects that are more likely if you start at a higher dose. Until your body gets used to the medication, Saxenda is given at a lower dose and increased over time. This will stop or lessen side effects, such as nausea (feeling sick). Not everyone will reach the maintenance dose of 3mg if they have side effects.

What happens if I miss a dose of Saxenda?

If you forget to take your Saxenda pen but it is within 12 hours from when you would usually take it, you can still take your dose. If it has been longer than 12 hours, wait until your next dose is due and carry on as normal. You should not increase your next dose or take a double dose to make up for a missed dose.

What happens if I overdose?

Using a higher dose of Saxenda than you have been prescribed may cause some side effects, such as:

  • low blood sugar (hypoglycemia), which can cause sweating, dizziness, tingling lips, and trembling
  • nausea or vomiting (feeling or being sick)

Speak to your online doctor or call 999 or 112, depending on the severity of your symptoms. You can also visit A&E. You might need medical treatment if you overdose so take your medication with you, so the hospital staff are aware of what you have taken.

Side effects of Saxenda

Saxenda can have some side effects which should start to go away once your body is used to the medication. Not everyone who uses Saxenda will get side effects. If side effects last longer than 5 weeks or bother you too much, speak with your online doctor.

Are there any serious side effects of Saxenda?

Saxenda can have some serious side effects, such as:

  • pancreatitis, which is inflammation of the pancreas and can cause nausea, vomiting, and severe and consistent stomach pain
  • a severe allergic reaction, which can cause an increased heartbeat, difficulty breathing, and swelling of the face

If you get any of these side effects, stop using Saxenda and call 999 or 112, or visit A&E right away.

Are there any mild side effects of Saxenda?

Saxenda has some mild side effects, which usually only last for a few days up to a few weeks. The most common side effects include:

  • constipation
  • diarrhoea
  • nausea or vomiting

Common side effects include:

  • problems at the site of injection, such as itching, rash, irritation, bruising, or pain
  • weakness
  • tiredness
  • dizziness
  • change in taste
  • gallstones
  • low blood sugar
  • indigestion or heartburn
  • bloating
  • wind
  • dry mouth

Uncommon side effects include:

  • increased pulse
  • feeling generally unwell
  • skin rash
  • dehydration, which is more likely if you have other side effects like vomiting or diarrhoea
  • inflamed gallbladder

For more information on side effects, see the patient information leaflet.

Managing side effects

The most common side effects of Saxenda is nausea, which should go away within the first few weeks. If you have nausea, there are things you can do at home to manage your symptoms, such as:

  • getting fresh air
  • eating smaller meals more often
  • distracting yourself by doing things such as going for a walk, watching TV, or reading a book
  • taking small sips of fizzy drinks or cold water
  • eating food that contains ginger
  • drinking ginger or peppermint tea
  • avoiding greasy, fatty, strong-smelling, or spicy foods
  • eating slowly
  • sitting up straight after eating, rather than lying down

If you get constipation, try increasing the amount of fibre in your diet and drinking more water. You should also keep active and try to reduce anything that may be causing you stress, as this can make constipation worse.

Frequently asked questions

Here are some frequently asked questions that can help you when using Saxenda. If you have any questions that are not answered below, you can speak to your online doctor for free through your patient account.

How do I store my Saxenda pen correctly?

Like any medication, Saxenda should be kept out of sight and reach of children. Never use a Saxenda pen after the expiration date. Your Saxenda pens should be stored in the fridge before using for the first time, between 2°C and 8°C. Do not store Saxenda in a freezer.

After you have used a pen for the first time, you can only keep it for 1 month. A pen should not last longer than 2.5 weeks at the lowest dose. You can store an opened pen in the fridge or at room temperature, as long as this is below 30°C. Keep the cap on whenever you are not using your pen.

How long can you take Saxenda for?

Saxenda can be used for as long as you need it and your online doctor will assess your treatment regularly. After 17 weeks, your weight will be reviewed to check that you have lost more than 5% of your starting weight. If you have not, treatment will be stopped as this means Saxenda is not working as it should.

If you have lost more than 5% of your starting weight, you can continue using Saxenda. Your online doctor might stop treatment if your side effects are bothering you too much or do not go away. Do not stop taking Saxenda unless you have spoken to your online doctor, as it should be stopped gradually.

What time of day should I take my Saxenda dose?

Saxenda can be taken at any time of day, as long as you take it at the same time each day. Saxenda does not need to be taken with meals.

How long does a Saxenda pen last?

This depends on your current dose as this changes during your treatment. Once you reach the maximum dose of 3mg, each pen should last for 6 days.

When should I stop using Saxenda?

You should only stop taking Saxenda if you and your online doctor have agreed to. This may happen if it is not working, or the side effects bother you too much.

Medically reviewed by:
Dr Kathryn Basford

Dr Kathryn Basford is an IMC and GMC registered GP who works with our Irish team here at ZAVA. She graduated from the University of Manchester and completed her GP training at Whipps Cross Hospital in London.

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Last reviewed: 11 Aug 2022

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