Liraglutide is a human glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1) analogue contained in the new anti-obesity medication, Saxenda®. Saxenda® is indicated for chronic weight management as an adjunct to diet and exercise in patients with a body mass index (BMI) greater than 30, or in the presence of a weight-related comorbidity, a BMI greater than 27. This is a new indication for liraglutide which has been available for the treatment of type 2 diabetes since 2010 under the brand name, Victoza®.

GLP-1 is an intestinal hormone that stimulates insulin secretion from pancreatic β-cells and also promotes satiety by action in appetite-regulating areas of the brain. Weight loss associated with liraglutide is thought to occur mainly due to appetite suppression resulting in reduced caloric intake. The largest clinical trial undertaken to assess this effect demonstrated a reduction in body weight of 8% in the liraglutide group of patients, compared to 2.6% in the placebo group.

Liraglutide therapy is commonly associated with gastrointestinal adverse effects such as nausea, vomiting, and diarrhoea. These effects are generally mild to moderate and diminish with continued therapy. Liraglutide is presented as pre-filled disposable pens for subcutaneous injection. Saxenda® pens deliver doses up to 3.0mg, while Victoza® pens deliver doses up to 1.8mg; the recommended daily maximum for the treatment of diabetes. Neither formulation is currently available on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS).

References:

  1. Saxenda® (liraglutide) Australian approved product information. Baulkham Hills: Novo Nordisk Pharmaceuticals Pty Ltd. Approved December 2015.
  2. Tucker ME. FDA approves liraglutide (Saxenda) for weight loss. New York: Medcape; 2014.

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