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A Guide to Doctor-Prescribed Weight Loss Pills in Singapore

  • March 26, 2024
Elevate Editorial Team
In Singapore, the quest for a healthy weight and the management of obesity have become increasingly significant in recent years. As individuals seek sustainable and effective weight management strategies, attention has turned towards medical interventions, including doctor-prescribed weight loss pills. This guide aims to provide an educational overview of such interventions, focusing on the role of medications in managing obesity and the importance of professional guidance in this journey.

Obesity in Singapore

Obesity is a complex condition characterised by an excess of body fat, which poses significant risks to an individual’s health. While the Body Mass Index (BMI) is commonly used to classify overweight and obesity, it is important to note that BMI alone is not an absolute measure of obesity. Factors such as muscle mass, ethnic background, and distribution of fat must also be considered, especially since Asians, including Singaporeans, tend to develop health complications at lower BMI thresholds compared to other populations. Singapore has witnessed a notable change in obesity rates alongside its rapid economic and urban development, leading to increased prevalence of non-communicable diseases (NCDs) and mortality. From 2004 to 2010, the prevalence of obesity jumped nearly 60%, from 6.9% to 10.8%, accompanied by a significant rise in diabetes mellitus to 11.3% in 2010. Although there was a period of stabilisation, the obesity rate climbed again to 10.5% in 2020. These statistics highlight a concerning trend, with 58% of adults in Singapore living with an unhealthy weight (BMI ≥23 kg/m2) in 2020, including 20.7% classified as obese (BMI ≥27.5 kg/m2) and 40.6% with abdominal obesity. The increase in obesity is not confined to adults; it has also escalated among school-going youths, rising from 11% in 2013 to 16% in 2021, with a significant spike observed during the COVID-19 pandemic. This trend raises concerns, as approximately 70% of overweight children continue to be overweight into adulthood, suggesting the future adult prevalence of obesity is likely to rise without effective early intervention. Furthermore, Singapore’s rapidly ageing population compounds the challenge, as ageing is linked with an increase in abdominal obesity and heightened risk for multiple NCDs. The anticipated doubling of diabetes mellitus prevalence by 2050 is largely attributed to this ageing demographic combined with the ongoing rise in obesity. The economic costs, strain on the healthcare system, and the profound burden of obesity on the nation underscore the critical need for comprehensive strategies to address this issue.

Why Get Doctor-Prescribed Weight Loss Pills in Singapore?

The decision to pursue doctor-prescribed weight loss pills in Singapore is often driven by the unique challenges and needs of individuals facing obesity. Given the complex nature of obesity – which is influenced by a myriad of factors including genetics, lifestyle, and environmental elements – a one-size-fits-all approach is seldom effective. Recognising the diversity of individual circumstances, it may be beneficial to explore several critical factors that can underscore the potential upsides of doctor-prescribed weight loss pills:

Permitted Drugs Follow Strict Guidelines

In Singapore, the availability and prescription of weight loss medications are closely regulated by health authorities to ensure safety and efficacy. Medications such as Glucagon-Like Peptide-1 Receptor Agonists (GLP-1 RA), including semaglutide, must pass rigorous testing and approval processes before they can be prescribed to patients. These strict guidelines ensure that only drugs with a proven safety profile and demonstrated effectiveness in clinical trials are approved for use. The Health Sciences Authority (HSA) of Singapore plays a crucial role in this process, evaluating the benefits and risks of new medications to protect public health. This meticulous regulatory approach guarantees that doctor-prescribed weight loss pills meet high standards for quality, safety, and efficacy, providing peace of mind for individuals considering these treatments.

Results Suggest Strong Scientific Backing

The efficacy of doctor-prescribed weight loss medications is often supported by extensive scientific research. Studies on GLP-1 RA drugs, for instance, have shown significant results in reducing body weight and improving metabolic health markers when combined with lifestyle modifications. These medications work by mimicking the action of the glucagon-like peptide-1 hormone, which regulates appetite and food intake, leading to reduced calorie consumption and weight loss. Clinical trials have consistently demonstrated that patients using GLP-1 RA medications can achieve meaningful weight reduction, which is often accompanied by improvements in cardiovascular risk factors, blood sugar levels, and overall metabolic health. The strong scientific backing for these medications underscores their potential as a valuable tool in the comprehensive management of obesity and its related health conditions, though results may vary from individual to individual.

Administered by Trusted Authorities

The prescription and administration of certain weight loss pills in Singapore are confined to qualified healthcare professionals, ensuring that individuals receive comprehensive care tailored to their specific needs. Doctors assess the patient’s health history, current condition, and weight loss goals to determine the most appropriate medication and dosage. This personalised approach not only seeks to maximise treatment effectiveness but also minimise potential side effects. Moreover, ongoing monitoring by healthcare providers can enable timely adjustments to the treatment plan, helping ensure more optimal outcomes for the patient. By entrusting the administration of weight loss medications to experienced medical practitioners, patients can be more assured of a safe, effective, and scientifically sound approach to managing obesity.

Types of Weight Loss Pills in Singapore

This section provides an overview of various types of weight loss pills available in Singapore, aiming to inform about their characteristics, how they operate, the outcomes observed from their use, and potential side effects.  


What type of drug is it?

Saxenda (liraglutide) is a type of weight loss medication classified as a Glucagon-Like Peptide-1 (GLP-1) receptor agonist. Unlike traditional weight loss medications that may stimulate the central nervous system, Saxenda works by targeting areas of the brain involved in appetite regulation.

How does it work?

Saxenda mimics the action of the GLP-1 hormone, which is naturally produced in the intestines. GLP-1 receptor agonists like Saxenda increase insulin release in response to high blood sugar levels, decrease glucagon production (a hormone that raises blood sugar levels), and slow gastric emptying. This combination of actions helps reduce appetite and caloric intake, supporting weight loss efforts.

What type of results have been seen?

Clinical trials have shown that Saxenda, in conjunction with a reduced-calorie diet and increased physical activity, can lead to significant weight loss. The extent of weight loss varies among individuals, with some experiencing more significant reductions than others. It’s important to note that Saxenda’s effectiveness is enhanced when integrated into a comprehensive lifestyle intervention program.

What are its side effects?

The use of Saxenda can be associated with a range of side effects, which are generally manageable but can vary in severity from person to person. Common side effects include nausea, diarrhoea, constipation, vomiting, headache, and decreased appetite. Less commonly, it may cause more serious issues such as pancreatitis, gallbladder problems, or kidney problems. Patients are advised to discuss the potential risks and side effects with their healthcare provider to ensure informed decision-making.  


What type of drug is it?

Ozempic (semaglutide) is classified under the category of Glucagon-Like Peptide-1 (GLP-1) receptor agonists, similar to Saxenda, but it is primarily used to manage type 2 diabetes. However, its effects on weight loss have led to its use in the management of obesity as well.

How does it work?

Ozempic functions by enhancing the release of insulin (a hormone that lowers blood sugar) when blood glucose levels are high, suppressing the release of glucagon (a hormone that increases blood sugar), and delaying gastric emptying. This trio of actions can contribute to a reduction in appetite and, consequently, a decrease in food intake, aiding in weight loss efforts.

What type of results have been seen?

Studies have demonstrated that individuals using Ozempic, alongside adopting a healthier diet and increasing physical activity, can experience notable weight reduction. The degree of weight loss observed can vary between individuals, highlighting the importance of a personalised approach to treatment that may include lifestyle changes for optimal effectiveness.

What are its side effects?

Potential side effects of Ozempic include gastrointestinal symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, abdominal pain, and constipation. In rare instances, more severe side effects like pancreatitis, gallbladder issues, and changes in vision may occur. As with any medication, it is critical for patients to consult with their healthcare provider to thoroughly understand the benefits and risks associated with its use.  


What type of drug is it?

Rybelsus (oral semaglutide) is another GLP-1 receptor agonist, distinct for its oral administration, making it the first of its kind in this category to be used for type 2 diabetes management with potential benefits in weight loss.

How does it work?

Similar to other GLP-1 receptor agonists, Rybelsus works by stimulating insulin release in response to elevated blood glucose levels, reducing glucagon production, and slowing down the emptying of the stomach, which collectively can help decrease appetite and food intake.

What type of results have been seen?

Clinical trials indicate that Rybelsus can lead to weight loss in individuals, especially when coupled with lifestyle modifications such as diet and exercise. The response to Rybelsus varies among patients, underscoring the necessity for individualised treatment plans.

What are its side effects?

The most common side effects associated with Rybelsus include gastrointestinal issues like nausea, stomach pain, diarrhoea, and loss of appetite. Less frequently, it may cause more serious adverse effects, including pancreatitis and renal impairment. Patients should engage in open discussions with their healthcare providers about the potential risks and benefits of Rybelsus.  


What type of drug is it?

Wegovy (semaglutide) is a higher dose of the GLP-1 receptor agonist semaglutide, approved specifically for weight management in adults with obesity or overweight with at least one weight-related condition (e.g., hypertension, type 2 diabetes, or dyslipidemia).

How does it work?

Wegovy operates through the same mechanism as other GLP-1 receptor agonists, enhancing insulin secretion, reducing glucagon production, and slowing gastric emptying to help reduce appetite and food intake.

What type of results have been seen?

Clinical studies have shown that Wegovy can reduce body weight in overweight individuals when used alongside a reduced-calorie diet and increased physical activity. The magnitude of weight loss can vary, highlighting the tailored nature of weight management strategies.

What are its side effects?

Common side effects of Wegovy include nausea, diarrhoea, vomiting, constipation, and abdominal pain. There are also considerations for more serious side effects such as pancreatitis, gallbladder issues, and renal impairment, necessitating a thorough discussion with healthcare providers about the medication’s risks and benefits.  


What type of drug is it?

Panbesy (phentermine) is a stimulant that is similar to an amphetamine. Phentermine is an appetite suppressant that affects the central nervous system, primarily used as a short-term adjunct in the management of obesity.

How does it work?

Panbesy works by stimulating the release of brain chemicals that will reduce the sensation of hunger, making it easier to eat less and thus support weight loss efforts.

What type of results have been seen?

When used in conjunction with lifestyle changes such as diet and exercise, Panbesy has been shown to aid in weight loss. Its effectiveness varies from person to person, and it is usually prescribed for short-term use.

What are its side effects?

The use of Panbesy can sometimes lead to side effects such as increased blood pressure, heart palpitations, restlessness, dizziness, tremor, insomnia, shortness of breath, and chest pain. Due to its stimulant properties, it is important for individuals to be closely monitored by their healthcare provider during treatment.  

Which is the Best Weight Loss Pill in Singapore?

Determining the “best” weight loss pill in Singapore is not straightforward due to the highly individualised nature of weight management. What works effectively for one individual may not produce the same results for another, as the success of any weight loss medication depends on a range of factors. These include the individual’s specific health profile, genetic factors, lifestyle, diet, physical activity levels, and how their body responds to the medication. Therefore, it is essential to approach this question with an understanding that effectiveness can vary significantly from person to person. Healthcare professionals play a crucial role in identifying the most suitable weight loss medication for their patients. This decision is made after a thorough evaluation of the patient’s medical history, current health status, and specific weight loss needs. Additionally, it is important to consider the potential side effects and how the medication fits into the overall plan for weight management. It is also worth noting that medication is often most effective when combined with lifestyle changes such as a healthy diet and regular physical activity. Thus, the journey towards achieving and maintaining a healthy weight typically involves a holistic approach that encompasses dietary modifications, increased physical activity, behavioural changes, and, when appropriate, pharmacological treatment.

Maximising Weight Management Efforts

For individuals seeking to enhance their weight management efforts, incorporating a structured weight loss program can provide a more comprehensive approach beyond medication alone. Such programs, guided by healthcare professionals, integrate nutritional counselling, exercise plans, and behaviour modification strategies to address the multifaceted aspects of weight loss. This approach not only supports the physical aspect of weight reduction but also fosters healthier lifestyle habits that contribute to long-term success. CONTACT US

FAQs about Doctor-Prescribed Weight Loss Pills in Singapore

Do I still need to go on a diet and exercise if I am on weight loss medication?

Yes, incorporating a healthy diet and regular exercise is generally recommended alongside taking weight loss pills. Medications are designed to work as part of a comprehensive weight management plan, which includes dietary modifications and increased physical activity. These lifestyle changes complement the effects of weight loss medication, potentially leading to more significant and sustainable outcomes. It’s important to consult with a healthcare professional for personalised advice that considers your specific health needs and weight loss goals.

Who is suitable for prescription weight loss pills?

Prescription weight loss pills may be suitable for individuals who have a body mass index (BMI) that classifies them as overweight or obese, particularly if they have related health conditions such as type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, or dyslipidemia. Healthcare professionals also consider factors like previous weight loss attempts, potential benefits of weight loss, and the individual’s overall health profile. The decision to prescribe weight loss medication is made after a thorough assessment, ensuring that it aligns with the individual’s specific circumstances and health objectives.

Who is not suitable for prescription weight loss pills?

Prescription weight loss pills may not be suitable for individuals with certain health conditions, such as uncontrolled hypertension, a history of eating disorders, or specific medication interactions. Pregnant or breastfeeding women are also typically advised against using these medications due to potential risks to the baby. Furthermore, individuals with a history of drug abuse or certain psychological conditions may need to explore alternative weight management strategies. Each case is assessed individually, and healthcare providers will consider a range of factors before determining the appropriateness of weight loss medication.
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