Is it safe to use Victoza for weight loss?

Dr Crystal Wyllie

Medically reviewed by

Dr Crystal Wyllie

Last reviewed: 10 Jan 2024

Victoza injections are a type 2 diabetic treatment that can regulate blood sugar levels when they are not controlled through diet alone. Each Victoza pen contains the active ingredient liraglutide, which is also a weight loss treatment found under the brand name Saxenda.

Liraglutide acts like a hormone in your body called glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1). It sends a signal to your brain that you’re full and reduces blood sugar and appetite levels. Victoza injections aren’t licensed for weight loss, but they can be prescribed for weight loss off-label. Please note: At ZAVA, we do not prescribe off-label diabetes medications for weight loss, as there are proven weight loss medications available.

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Dr Crystal Wyllie

Victoza medication is a type 2 diabetic treatment that’s been getting a lot of attention online due to its weight loss properties. Although it can be used for losing weight, the treatment schedule is different to that of weight loss medications. If you’re looking for an effective injectable weight loss treatment that’s been approved in the UK, you can try Wegovy or Saxenda.” – Dr Crystal Wyllie, Doctor at ZAVA.

What is Victoza (Liraglutide)?

Victoza (liraglutide) is a treatment for those with type 2 diabetes. It can regulate blood sugar (glucose) levels when diet alone isn’t enough. Victoza injection is approved in the UK as a type 2 diabetic treatment, but not as a weight loss treatment. There is currently another weight loss medication on the market that contains the same active ingredient and is specifically for weight loss (Saxenda).

Despite Victoza injections not being approved for weight loss, you can sometimes get it prescribed off-label. This means your doctor can approve the medication for a purpose other than what it’s licensed for, as long as they think you could benefit from it.

Victoza medication and other Wegovy alternatives such as Trulicity and Ozempic are often in high demand. This means stocks can run low, which can be a problem for people with type 2 diabetes who need treatment. Therefore, your doctor is more likely to recommend using Saxenda or Wegovy, as these are already approved in the UK for weight loss.

Who makes Victoza?

Victoza’s manufacturer is Novo Nordisk. They are a Danish company that produce a number of similar medications used for treating diabetes and for supporting weight loss. Many of these other medications are the same type of medication as Victoza – GLP-1 agonists.

Is Victoza insulin or not?

Victoza is not a type of insulin but it can still be prescribed alongside insulin if you’ve been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, to help control blood sugar. Your doctor will let you know how to take Victoza for diabetes. Victoza and insulin should not be taken together and you must be careful to not get your Victoza pen mixed up with your insulin injections, if they are prescribed together.

How does Victoza work in the body?

Victoza effect on the body if due to the active ingredient, liraglutide. This is a type of GLP-1 agonist, which means it simulates this hormone in your body. Your intestines usually release GLP-1 after you eat.

When you take Victoza (liraglutide) it does 3 things:

  1. Slows down the emptying of your stomach, which controls blood sugar levels after meals.
  2. Prevents your liver from making too much glucose, which could raise your blood sugar.
  3. Helps your pancreas to make more insulin when you’ve got high blood sugar, so it can regulate blood sugar levels quicker than it would if you weren’t using Victoza.

Alongside regulating blood sugar levels, Victoza injections can help some people lose weight. Usually, GLP-1 tells your brain you’re full after you’ve eaten. When Victoza is injected, it also sends the same signals to your brain, lowering your appetite even when eating less.

This makes it easier to eat less and meet weight loss goals when taken alongside a diet and exercise plan.

What is Victoza used for?

Victoza injection for type 2 diabetes is used for people who need extra help managing their blood sugar levels. Victoza injections for diabetes can be taken alongside other type 2 diabetic treatments and may be used while you adjust your diet and try to lose weight.

Victoza for diabetes can sometimes be prescribed off-label for weight loss, although it’s better to stick to an approved weight loss treatment instead.

Is Victoza only for diabetes?

Victoza is only approved in the UK for diabetes, so it’s likely to be more difficult to get for weight loss and more expensive.

Can I take Victoza if I am not diabetic?

Dr Crystal Wyllie

You can only take a Victoza pen if you have type 2 diabetes unless a doctor has prescribed it off-label as a weight loss treatment. It’s dangerous to take any medication unless it’s been prescribed legally, as it could be unsafe if you have certain medical conditions or take some medications.” – Dr Crystal Wyllie, Doctor at ZAVA.

Tips for taking Victoza

If you are taking Victoza injections and want to lose weight, here are some tips that could make it more effective:

  • follow a diet plan, where you reduce your calorie intake safely and minimise the amount of high-sugar and high-fat foods you eat
  • exercise regularly, for around 150 minutes a week
  • take it at the same time every day, as this can improve how effective it is and can help you remember to take it
  • try not to miss a dose
  • inject into a different site each day, to minimise the risk of injection site reactions
  • always follow your Victoza prescription

Victoza: Foods to avoid

Whether you’re taking Victoza for type 2 diabetes or a weight loss, there are certain foods you should avoid to help manage your weight. This includes:

  • greasy or fried foods such as takeaways, as they contain a high-fat content and are more likely to upset your stomach, which could make Victoza side effects worse
  • high-sugar foods such as chocolate, as this can mess with your blood sugar levels, meaning Victoza can’t work as well
  • alcohol, because it lowers your blood sugar levels which can increase the likelihood of your levels dropping too low

You should also avoid following a crash diet, as this is likely to cause weight gain when you stop following it.

How safe is Victoza for weight loss?

According to a type 2 diabetes study carried out over 56 weeks into liraglutide, the average weight lost was around 5kg at the highest dose of Victoza – 1.8mg. The average weight loss in those who took 3 mg was 6.4kg. Victoza isn’t currently available in 3mg, but Saxenda is.

40.4% of those on the 1.8mg (Victoza dose) lost 5% or more of their initial body weight after 56 weeks. 54.3% of those taking 3 mg (Saxenda dose) lost 5% or more of their initial body weight. These studies show that Victoza may take longer to cause weight loss, which could increase the risk of side effects.

So, although Victoza can be safe for weight loss, it's unlikely to be as effective and you’d have to take it for longer to achieve the best results.

Is Victoza safe for weight loss in the UK?

Victoza is safe in the UK, but it’s not approved as a weight loss treatment. This means it can only be prescribed off-label, and other medications may work better.

It is unsafe and illegal in the UK to take Victoza for weight loss if you’ve not been prescribed it.

Can a doctor prescribe Victoza for weight loss?

Victoza isn’t currently approved for this purpose in the UK, but a doctor could prescribe it off-label. At ZAVA, we do not prescribe off-label diabetes medications for weight loss, as there are other licensed weight loss medications available.

What are the risks of taking Victoza for weight loss?

It can be difficult to find Victoza for weight loss in the UK, so this means you could end up getting it from an unapproved or illegal online pharmacy. If a doctor doesn’t prescribe the medication, or they don’t check your medical history first, this could be dangerous.

As Victoza’s primary use is not for weight loss, you may have to take it for a longer time without as good results as other weight loss treatments. This may increase your risk of side effects.

What are the side effects of Victoza?

Victoza side effects differ for each person and not everyone who takes Victoza will get side effects. During treatment, your Victoza dosage will be increased gradually, so your body can get used to the treatment, making side effects less likely.

Very common Victoza side effects include:

  • nausea (feeling sick)
  • diarrhoea, which can affect how well the contraceptive pill works if it lasts for a few days or more

Both of these usually go away over time.

Common Victoza side effects include:

  • vomiting (being sick) – which could lead to dehydration if you do not get enough fluids
  • headache
  • indigestion, painful or swollen stomach, abdominal discomfort
  • gastritis (inflamed stomach)
  • gastro-oesophageal reflux disease (GORD)
  • constipation
  • wind
  • decrease in appetite
  • bronchitis
  • common cold
  • tiredness
  • dizziness
  • increased pulse
  • toothache
  • injection site reactions, such as itching, redness, and swelling
  • an increase in lipase and amylase (pancreatic enzymes) in blood tests

Uncommon Victoza side effects include:

  • mild to moderate allergic reactions
  • feeling unwell
  • gallstones or an inflamed gallbladder
  • change in your sense of taste
  • a delay in the emptying of your stomach

If you get any of these side effects, see if they go away on their own. Speak to a doctor if they affect your daily life, do not go away, or bother you a lot.

There are some serious side effects of Victoza which require immediate medical attention. Call 999 or go to A&E straight away if you get:

  • symptoms of low blood sugar (hypoglycemia), such as headache, cold sweat, feeling weak, changes in vision or increased hunger
  • anaphylaxis (a severe allergic reaction), which causes dizziness, fainting, swelling in the face and mouth and difficulty breathing
  • bowel obstruction (a serious form of constipation)
  • pancreatitis (inflammation of the pancreas), with symptoms like pain in the upper stomach, fever and vomiting

When will the Victoza side effects go away?

Victoza side effects usually go away on their own within a few days to a few weeks of treatment. You might get side effects each time your doctor increases your Victoza dosage.

Victoza indications

Victoza uses include the regulation of blood sugar in those diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. It isn’t approved for weight loss.

Who should not take Victoza?

You should not take Victoza medication if you:

  • haven’t been prescribed it
  • don’t have a BMI of over 30, or a BMI of over 27 and a weight-related medical condition
  • are allergic to any ingredients contained in the Victoza pen
  • have type 1 diabetes or diabetic ketoacidosis
  • are currently on dialysis
  • have severe liver disease or heart failure
  • have severe stomach or gut issues, such as inflammatory bowel disease
  • are less than 10 years old

If you have any other medical conditions or take any medications, especially insulin, warfarin, or sulfonylurea, talk to your doctor before using Victoza.

Victoza alternatives

There are some alternatives to Victoza if it’s unsuitable for you. Victoza alternatives may include metformin, Ozempic, Trulicity and Mounjaro.

Victoza vs metformin

Victoza and metformin are both type 2 diabetes treatments. Victoza is injected daily and contains liraglutide. It’s also a branded treatment.

Metformin can also be taken to prevent diabetes. It contains the active ingredient metformin and is an unbranded tablet taken daily. You can be prescribed metformin up to 3 times a day. Metformin belongs to a group of medicines called biguanides.

Both treatments can be taken together with insulin, or other diabetes treatments. Metformin and Victoza may cause some weight loss as they help to stabilise blood sugar levels, but are not approved for this use.

Victoza vs Ozempic

Victoza and Ozempic are both type 2 diabetes treatments that are injected through a predosed pen. Although both are only licensed in the UK for diabetes, they may be prescribed off-label in rare cases.

While Victoza is taken daily, Ozempic is only taken once a week. It contains the active ingredient semaglutide. Both medications are GLP-1 agonists, which means they work to mimic the GLP-1 hormone to regulate blood sugar levels and reduce appetite, aiding with weight loss.

If you’re looking for a weight loss treatment containing semaglutide, which is the active ingredient in Ozempic, you could try Wegovy.

Victoza vs Trulicity

Trulicity is also a type 2 diabetes treatment that can regulate blood sugar levels, as well as reduce the risk of a stroke or heart attack if you have heart disease. The active ingredient is dulaglutide, which is a GLP-1 receptor agonist. It should be taken once a week, around the same time.

Like Victoza, Trulicity is an injectable pen that can also help manage weight, although it’s not currently approved for this purpose. Both are branded medications.

Comparison table between Ozempic vs Trulicity vs Victoza vs Mounjaro

Comparison table between Ozempic, Trulicity, Victoza and Mounjaro

* a percentage of people that lost 5% or more of their starting weight according to studies

What is better than Victoza for Weight loss?

Approved weight loss treatments like Saxenda and Wegovy are better for weight loss than Victoza. This is because they’ve been approved for this purpose and the dosing schedule has been created for the most effective weight loss. They’re also easier to get, as they don’t need to be prescribed off-label. If you’re currently taking one, you can easily switch to another if you’d like to try it.

You can also get other weight loss treatments, such as:

  • Mysimba – a tablet that contains bupropion and naltrexone hydrochloride, taken once a day. This works on the areas of your brain that control appetite and hunger.
  • Xenical – a weight loss pill that stops around a third of the fat being absorbed when taken with meals containing fat. It can be taken up to 3 times a day. The active ingredient is orlistat.
  • orlistat – an unbranded version of Xenical. As it’s unbranded it costs less.

There’s also an over-the-counter version of orlistat, called alli. This contains a lower dose of orlistat (60mg per tablet) but works in the same way. You don’t need a prescription but a pharmacist will still have to ask a few questions first to make sure it’s a safe treatment option for you.

Victoza reviews

Drugs.com has plenty of patient reviews for Victoza as a type 2 diabetes treatment. The average rating for Victoza is 7.7 out of 10. 70% of patients reported a positive experience while taking Victoza. Most people report side effects like nausea and vomiting within the first few weeks of taking it but say these symptoms go away once you get used to their treatment.

Most patients reported a positive effect on their blood sugar levels within a few days to a few weeks, and some reported weight loss as a side effect.

Conclusion

Victoza (liraglutide) is used for treating blood sugar levels if you have type 2 diabetes. Although it can help aid with weight loss, there are other more effective and safer treatment options out there. This includes other injectable weight loss medications, like Saxenda and Wegovy.

Victoza medication can be prescribed off-label but may be more expensive and harder to get hold of for weight loss.

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Frequently asked questions

How long does Victoza stay in your system?

The half-life of liraglutide is 13 hours. This is how quickly half of the medication leaves your system. Victoza medication can stay in your body for around 52 to 65 hours after taking it, but the effects of the medication won’t last that long.

Is Victoza a GLP 1?

Victoza is a GLP-1 agonist, which means it acts like the GLP-1 hormone.

How much does Victoza cost?

This depends on where you get it and what you take it for. The average cost for off-label prescriptions is £155.00 per pen.

Is there a cheaper alternative to Victoza?

Yes, most weight loss medications are cheaper than Victoza, as they are approved for weight loss and don’t need prescribing off-label, which can make medicines more expensive. This includes Saxenda and Wegovy, as well as other weight loss tablets like Xenical or Mysimba.

How long does it take for Victoza to work?

Victoza should start to work within a few doses, but it can take several weeks to reach its full effect.

dr-crystal-wyllie.png
Medically reviewed by:
Dr Crystal Wyllie Accreditations: MBBS, MRCGP (2015), DFSRH, DRCOG (2018)

Crystal qualified in Medicine at Barts and the London School of Medicine and Dentistry in 2010. She then trained as a GP in London hospitals and practices. She has a particular interest in reproductive, sexual and women’s health.

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Last reviewed: 10 Jan 2024





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