A number of women in Vietnam looking to shed a few pounds are finding that claims made by several over-the-counter weight loss drugs marketed on social media aren’t holding much weight.
A user in Hanoi, identified as H., said she was able to shed eight kilograms after following a plan given to her by a local cosmetic surgery center which asked her to take 18 generic pills a day for three months.
She may have lost the weight, but not without twelve weeks of diarrhea, constant lethargy, high blood pressure, diminished possession of her senses, and forgetfulness.
When questioned about the absence of labeling on the packing, the center claimed the choice to include pertinent information was an exclusive right enjoyed by their Thai manufacturer.
Another woman, known as C., in Ho Chi Minh City, experienced abnormal body temperature variation, copious sweating, headaches, and nausea while following a regimen which called for consuming VND1.2 million (US$53) worth of weight-loss pills advertised as having no side effects or need for accompanied diet or exercise.
Her problems became so bad that she was forced to take time off work and wound up discarding the pills after four days of use.
T. D., another woman affected by dubious weight loss pills, was hoping to lose three kilograms. Instead, she wound up in the hospital after suffering from dizziness, tinnitus, and low blood pressure.
“I contacted the seller and told them my problems but they blocked my message. It was a really awful experience,” T. D. said.
The sale of weight-loss drugs has thrived in Vietnam over the past several years, aided by social media platforms such as Facebook and several so-called authorized outlets.
Facebook, in particular, is rife with sellers looking to make a quick buck on dangerous pills. One account belonging to a resident in Go Vap District, Ho Chi Minh City, was behind an advertising blitz for weight-reducing super-pills made in Thailand.
The account regularly posts complimentary remarks and before-and-after of women it claims used the pills to cut four to six kilograms of excess fat within a week. The caption on one picture even claimed the model had last a whopping 15 kilograms in just 45 days.
“We’re offering a two-week regimen that helps you shed four to six kilograms with pills that cost VND750,000 [US$33]. Take six a day, before breakfast and dinner. Avoid starch, beer, coffee, and lemonade, which negate the drugs’ effect,” a woman working for the page said in a telephone call on Wednesday.
She noted that the drugs worked by inducing thirst, sweating, and frequent urination and defecation.
“The more water you drink and the more you defecate, the more quickly you lose weight,” she added.
In Hanoi, a drugstore lookalike claimed to be an agent for a Thai hospital. The store claimed that a VND1.5 million (US$66) regimen of its pills would take effect after just four weeks.
To give credence to the products, its website published pictures showing its pharmacists meeting the head of the infirmary’s nutrition department and discussing weight loss approaches and regimens.