Bangkok Pills

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Slimming pills known as "Bangkok pills" are the latest craze today. People who are desperately trying to reduce weight are taking risks just to look good without even knowing its contents and possible adverse effects on the body.

News reports claim that showbiz and other famous figure-conscious personalities are notably the ones taking these reducing pills. But they should worry more about their health than their figures as these drugs can cause damage to the heart and the brain if used indiscriminately.

According to Health Secretary Alberto G. Romualdez, Jr.. "Bangkok pills" are not considered safe because it is not registered with the Bureau of Food and Drugs (BFAD). This means that it did not pass vigorous testing and it does not have a Certificate of Product Registration, which makes its sale illegal. However, the Department of Health disclosed that even if there were efforts to have the reducing pill registered, it will not be approved due to the drug's definitive toxicity.


Drug Components of Bangkok Pills

Dr. Kenneth Hartigan-Go, deputy director of the BFAD and the program manager of the Philippine National Drug Policy Programme (PNDPP), said that "Bangkok pills" were illegally brought in the Philippines by unscrupulous and profit-oriented travellers from Thailand. The pills come in tablet and capsule forms, and are taken several times a day. They have different colors like blue, yellow, white, orange, pink, red and maroon. After testing some samples by the BFAD, the pills were found to contain phentermine, fenfluramine, dexfenfluramine, ephedrine and pseudoephedrine.


An addictive drug that is similar in structure to amphetamines. It is prescribed for people with asthma and bronchitis. Ephedrine is a colorless crystalline alkaloid derived from the dried stem of a Chinese herb called ma haung.

Stimulant effect:

  • increases heart and metabolic rates
  • alertness
  • anxiety
  • insomnia
  • palpitations
  • trembling
  • weakness
  • sweating
  • a feeling of warmth or "burning" in the muscles, nausea and vomiting
  • chest pain
  • hypertension
  • seizures
  • stroke
  • sudden rapid heart rate

In 1994, the Food and Drug Administration of the United States Department of Health and Human Services revealed that it has received and investigated more than 800 reports of adverse incidents associated with the use of ephedrine. These incidents ranged from episodes of high blood pressure, heart rate irregularities, insomnia, nervousness, tremors, and headaches to seizures, heart attacks, strokes and death.

Likewise, a few years back, the Adverse Drug Reaction Program of the University of the Philippines-Philippine General Hospital reported a death associated to a slimming product containing ma huang. The relatives of the 19year-old girl said that before her death, she acted as if she was high on drugs. They noticed that she had been feeling unsually warm, sweating profusely, and suffering from frequent diarrhea.


Diet drugs that have harmful side effects. Both chemicals have very little scientific research to establish their safety or efficacy. Fenfluramine is banned in the United States, Thailand and the Philippines.


  • it is known to be addictive and can cause dry mouth
  • excessive drowsiness
  • fatigue
  • abdominal pain
  • short-term memory loss
  • diarrhea


Phentermine is also similar to amphetamines and ephedrine. It causes


  • nervousness
  • insomnia
  • restlessness
  • anxiety
  • increased heart rate
  • increased blood pressure
  • irritability
  • dry mouth
  • vomiting
  • irregular heartbeat
  • constipation


A variation of fenfluramine and like the others is also a prescription drug against obesity. Together with fenfluramine, it has been removed from the market since 1997 in many countries because of detected valvular damage to the heart. The said chemicals are now being dumped in the country and Filipinos are unsuspectingly being fooled.


Dr. Go stated that ephedrine and psudoephedrine are regulated drugs under the Dangerous Drugs Board (DDB), an attached agency of the DOH. These drugs are precursors to the making of shabu or metamphetamine hydrochloride.

Both are stimulants and not all doctors can prescribe it. Only doctors with an S2 license are authorized to prescribe narcotics and dangerous drugs like morphine, heroin and demerol. The S2 license is a special document issued by the DDB to doctors who apply for it.

Irreversible Side Effects

The DOH has issued stern warnings to the public not to take "Bangkok pills" because it poses health risks. If there are people who are still taking these pills, they should beware because the absence of side effects at present does not mean that such will not develop later on. What is scary is the fact that once actual side effects develop, it is irreversible.

Some examples of the irreversible side effects:

  • heart valve damage
  • elevation of blood sugar
  • abdominal spasm
  • muscle breakdown
  • hypertension
  • psychosis
  • cerebral stroke
  • ischemia
  • electrolyte imbalance

Further, Dr. Go disclosed that "Bangkok pills" have shabu-like effects. He added that if the urine of the people taking the pills were to be tested, it will turn out positive for shabu.


  • Gene T. Tan. Health Beat Magazine Issue no. 19. Department of Health of the Philippines. (Accessed on May 28, 2010).