bottle of unlabelled pills

Are you sure those pills are safe?

We’ve all seen health products and may have been attracted to the promises of “instant results”, “100% safe” or “natural ingredients”. These products come in all forms – they could be pills, capsules, powders or even beverages. As safe as they may appear to be, these health products could be harmful.

Related: Dangers of Illegal Health Products Posing as Natural or Traditional Cures

Dubious health products can contain potent ingredients which are not declared on the label. Some don’t even have an ingredient list! The black pills below are an example of a harmful health product discovered by the Health Sciences Authority in December 2015.

Man pouring out pills from a bottle into his hand

These black pills were sold by a treatment centre for general well-being and relief of body aches. They claimed to be “herbal”, but it was impossible to determine from the label where they were from and how they were manufactured. Laboratory tests later confirmed that the pills contained dexamethasone and chlorpheniramine – both potent western medicines which should only be prescribed by the doctor and used under strict medical supervision. If used inappropriately, they could lead to serious side effects and even worsen existing medical conditions. These two ingredients were not declared on the label and poor consumers had been exposed to the risks unknowingly!

Unfortunately, this was the case for a diabetic patient in his 50s. He was hospitalised for uncontrolled hypertension and Cushing’s syndrome (round face or ’moon face’ and upper body obesity with thin limbs), after taking these black pills for a prolonged period. When he tried to stop taking the pills earlier, he experienced discomfort, joint swelling and aches. Hence, he continued taking them and his condition worsened. He was eventually referred to a specialist and has since stopped taking the pills, which also led to an improvement of his medical conditions.

Related: Understanding Health Supplements

These health products may sound beneficial at first, but there’s no knowing what effect they may have on your body. As a consumer, it is important to exercise caution and make informed choices.

Here are some things we should take note of when buying and using health products:

Stay Clear if it’s Too Good to be True

Lady holding a couple of suspicious medicine into the trash

Be wary of health products promising miraculous results with exaggerated claims such as “no side effects” and “100% safe”. You cannot be certain where and how these products were made. Such products may contain undeclared ingredients that are harmful to your health.

Related: Know Your Medication

Get Professional Medical Advice

Pharmacist packing medicine for a patient according to prescription

Consult your doctor or pharmacist before starting on any health product for your medical conditions or symptoms. Get medical advice if you need help for the management of your acute and chronic medical symptoms and conditions.

Related: Dangers of Buying Health Products Online

Sound the Alert on Suspicious Products

Hand holding onto a pack of medcine in tablet form

If you come across any dubious health product which you suspect could be illegal, please contact HSA’s Enforcement Branch at 6866-3485 during office hours (Monday to Friday), or send an email to

Related: Illegal Products Found in Singapore


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