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Victoza and Weight Loss: Your Liraglutide Guide

Losing unhealthy weight and keeping it off is a tall order—and traditional means of weight loss aren’t always effective. Fortunately, the science of weight loss is making great strides and coming up with solutions (such as medications like liraglutide, semaglutide, and tirzepatide) that help people reach a healthy weight and stay there. Here we’ll take a closer look at liraglutide, more commonly known by one of its brand names, Victoza.


Why use liraglutide—or any medication—to help you lose weight?

There will always be those who argue that weight loss should only be accomplished “the old-fashioned way,” by eating less and exercising more, but this is a narrow view of achieving optimal health. We should all strive to eat a healthy diet and adopt an active lifestyle that gets us moving on most days, so it’s true that diet and exercise should take center stage when trying to lose weight or manage obesity. For many of us, though, burning more calories than we eat each day to achieve a calorie deficit is tough to maintain

Why is that? There are many factors—inside your body and outside it—that are working against you. 

Here’s a quick review of the barriers standing in the way of maintaining a healthy weight long term. When you understand all of these barriers, it becomes clear that taking a weight loss medication, such as liraglutide or semaglutide, is a sensible solution for many people facing obesity or overweight with complications:

  1. Appetite hormones. When you lose weighteven if you do it in a healthy way—your body fights against you keeping that weight off. Hormones like leptin and peptide YY decrease, and that makes you feel hungry. Hormones like ghrelin increase, and that also makes you feel hungry. Your body can change in ways that encourage you to regain the weight you lost, sometimes making weight loss maintenance a challenge.
  2. Unhealthful food options. Ultra-processed foods, which are packed full of sugar and stripped of nutrients, are all around us. Nearly 60% of Americans’ calories come from ultra-processed foods. It’s true that we can generally choose to say no to these foods—but the promise of cheap, easy, and tasty food is hard to ignore. 
  3. Emotions and behaviors. Healthy eating is hard because eating isn’t just a simple physical requirement that we have to complete each day—it incorporates emotion, culture, family and social interaction, financial situation, stress level, mood, and so much more.
  4. Genetics and metabolism. Due to these two factors, losing unhealthy weight is simply more difficult for some people than others. When your metabolism isn’t working effectively, “just eat fewer calories” is not a viable solution.  

What is liraglutide?

Scientists discovered back in the late 1990s that GLP-1 (glucagon-like peptide 1) that is naturally produced by our bodies decreases hunger and food intake. Natural GLP-1 causes the stomach to empty more slowly, making you feel full longer. GLP-1 also tells the pancreas to release more insulin and less glucagon, thereby decreasing blood glucose levels. 

Scientists wanted to recreate this naturally occurring hormone—but there was one problem: GLP-1 is used up by the body very quickly—in a matter of minutes. 

So, scientists had to modify natural GLP-1 to last longer. The result was the GLP-1 receptor agonist (GLP-1 RA) liraglutide, developed by the pharmaceutical company Novo Nordisk. When you look at the structure of the molecules, liraglutide and natural GLP-1 are 97% identical.

How does liraglutide help you lose weight?

Simply put, liraglutide helps you reduce the number of calories you eat each day. Just like the natural GLP-1 hormone your body produces, liraglutide causes the stomach to empty slowly (making you feel full longer) and helps regulate your blood sugar by adjusting the levels of insulin and glucagon in your blood. As a result, you feel hungry less often and therefore eat less.

What is Victoza?

In 2010, liraglutide was approved by the FDA to be taken (along with diet and exercise) to lower blood sugar in people over 10 years old with type 2 diabetes. It is also approved to be taken to reduce the risk of heart attack and stroke in adults with type 2 diabetes and heart disease. For these two indications, liraglutide is prescribed as the brand name Victoza and comes in a 1.2 mg or 1.8 mg daily injection. It is also prescribed by providers to help people lose weight. 

Note: In 2024, Novo Nordisk’s patent on liraglutide expires, allowing other companies to produce generic versions of Victoza.

Do doctors prescribe Victoza for weight loss?

Yes, Victoza can be prescribed for weight loss. Studies have shown that liraglutide is associated with weight loss in addition to lower blood sugar levels. For this reason, doctors can prescribe Victoza to patients who are trying to achieve a healthier weight.

How much weight do people lose with liraglutide?

One clinical trial of liraglutide studied patients without diabetes with a body mass index (BMI) between 30 and 40. The following chart sums up the results of this study focused on patients who were taking 1.2 mg and 1.8 mg doses of liraglutide—two doses that Victoza is available in:

            Body weight lost after 5 months of liraglutide or placebo

0 mg liraglutide (placebo)
1.2 mg liraglutide
1.8 mg liraglutide
Weight lost
6.2 lbs
10.6 lbs
12.1 lbs

What are the possible side effects of Victoza?

The 1-year SCALE Maintenance clinical trial of liraglutide, which studied patients without diabetes with a BMI ≥ 30 kg/m2 or ≥27 kg/m2 with a weight-related comorbid condition, reported that the most common adverse events in the patients taking liraglutide were gastrointestinal (GI) distress. The GI issues the liraglutide group had were considered mild to moderate and mostly occurred during the first month of the study. Withdrawal rates from the study due to adverse events were the same between people taking liraglutide and people taking placebo—but most withdrawals from the liraglutide group were due to GI problems, whereas the withdrawals from the placebo group were due to issues other than GI problems.

According to the Victoza website, the most common side effects of Victoza may include nausea, diarrhea, vomiting, decreased appetite, indigestion, and constipation. Hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) and pancreatitis (inflamed pancreas) are possible but uncommon.

Do people lose weight on liraglutide because it makes them feel nauseated?

It’s a fair question—if a medication can cause you to feel nauseated, won’t that cause you to eat less and lose more weight? While GI side effects of liraglutide can lead to higher weight loss initially, nausea is not a mechanism of weight loss.

How many Victoza pens do I need per month?

Each Victoza pen contains 18 mg of liraglutide, so how long the pen lasts will depend on the dose your provider has prescribed you: 

  • If you are prescribed a daily dose of 1.8 mg, then one pen holds 10 doses (10 days) of Victoza. So, a 30-day supply is 3 pens.
  • If you are prescribed 1.2 mg, the pen will give you 15 doses (15 days). So, a 30-day supply is 2 pens.

How is the Victoza pen stored and used?

Storing your pen. Before its first use, a new Victoza pen should be stored in the refrigerator (36°F to 46°F). After using it for the first time, the pen can be stored in the refrigerator or at room temperature (59°F to 86°F). No matter how it is stored, the pen is good for a maximum of 30 days.

Using your pen. Each time you use your Victoza pen, you must attach a new needle. Next, twist the base of the pen until your prescribed dose appears in the window. Then, insert the needle into the skin of your abdomen and press down the dose button (the base of the pen) for 6 seconds—the dose window should show 0. Be sure to carefully remove and safely discard the needle after each injection.

For full instructions on use, see the Victoza patient guide and scroll down to page 12.

How long does it take for Victoza to start working?

To help your body adjust to the new medication, your provider will likely start you on the lowest dose of liraglutide and increase your dose over several weeks. Victoza starts working in your body soon after injecting the medication, and many patients start to see weight loss results in a few weeks.

For how long are people usually prescribed Victoza?

How long you’ll stay on Victoza is a personalized decision between you and your provider, and it’s largely based on how well the medication is working for you and how you’re feeling on it. 

When stopping liraglutide, some patients regain weight, but many patients are able to keep the weight off and even continue to lose weight without the medication.

Ready to try Victoza for weight loss?

The ideal way to lose weight is unique to each person. If diet and exercise alone have not helped you reach a healthy weight, contact QuickMD and talk to a provider about the weight loss medication options available to you.

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External Sources Referenced:

Deng Y, et al. Effect of semaglutide and liraglutide in individuals with obesity or overweight without diabetes: a systematic review. Ther Adv Chronic Dis. 2022;13. doi:10.1177/20406223221108064

Epic Research. Many patients maintain weight loss a year after stopping semaglutide and liraglutide. 2024.

Knudsen LB, et al. The Discovery and development of liraglutide and semaglutide. Front Endocrinol. 2019 Apr 12;10:440904 doi:10.3389/fendo.2019.00155

Ladenheim E. Liraglutide and obesity: a review of the data so far. Drug Des Devel Ther. 2015 Mar 30:1867-75. doi: 10.2147/DDDT.S58459

Martinez Steele E, et al. Ultra-processed foods and added sugars in the US diet: evidence from a nationally representative cross-sectional study. BMJ Open. 2016 Jan 1;6(3):e009892. doi: 10.1136/bmjopen-2015-009892

Mehta A, et al. Liraglutide for weight management: a critical review of the evidence. Obes Sci Pract. 2017 Mar;3(1):3-14. doi: 10.1002/osp4.84

Neeland IJ, et al. Effects of liraglutide on visceral and ectopic fat in adults with overweight and obesity at high cardiovascular risk: a randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled, clinical trial. Lancet Diabetes Endocrinol. 2021 Sep 1;9(9):595-605. doi: 10.1016/S2213-8587(21)00179-0

Novo Nordisk. Victoza. 2024.

Novo Nordisk. Victoza prescribing information. 2023.

Sumithran P, et al. Long-term persistence of hormonal adaptations to weight loss. N Engl J Med. 2011 Oct 27;365(17):1597-604. doi: 10.1056/NEJMoa1105816

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