Guide to Obesity and Doctor-Prescribed Weight Loss Pills in Singapore

Siena Team
03 Oct 2023

Overweight and obesity are defined as abnormal or excessive fat accumulation that presents a risk to health. While eating a well-balanced, reduced-calorie diet and exercising regularly are the cornerstones of weight loss, certain drugs can serve as powerful adjuncts. Here is everything you need to know about obesity, prescription weight loss pills and where to get them in Singapore.

Importance Of Weight Management

Obesity is a major risk factor for chronic diseases such as:

  • cardiovascular diseases (mainly heart disease and stroke);
  • diabetes;
  • musculoskeletal disorders (especially osteoarthritis – a highly disabling degenerative disease of the joints);
  • some cancers (including endometrial, breast, ovarian, prostate, liver, gallbladder, kidney, and colon).

On the social front, obesity can affect your self-esteem and body image, causing psychological stress. 

How Common Is Obesity?

Obesity is more common than you think. The World Health Organization (WHO) has described obesity as a global epidemic and one of today’s “most blatantly visible yet neglected public health problems”.

Worldwide obesity has nearly tripled since 1975 according to the WHO.

Based on the National Population Health Survey 2016/2017, findings have revealed that the rates of obese individuals in Singapore have steadily increased from 32.5% to 40.1% from 2004 to 2010. In 2019 and 2020, about two out of five are overweight according to the Based on the National Population Health Survey 2020, about two out of five Singaporeans are overweight in 2019 and 2020.

How Do I Know If I Am Overweight?

Body mass index (BMI) is a calculation that takes a person’s weight and height into account to measure body size and is often used to diagnose obesity.

Body mass index (BMI) = weight (kg) / [height(m)]²

According to WHO, the standard BMI interpretations are as follows:

BMIWeight Status
Below 18.5Underweight
18.5 – 24.9Normal weight
25 – 29.9Overweight
30 and aboveObese
Standard BMI Interpretations

However, the following BMI interpretations are recommended for the Asian population which usually features relatively smaller people:

BMIWeight Status
Below 18.5Underweight
18.5 – 22.9Normal weight
23 – 27.5Overweight
27.5 and aboveObese
Asians BMI Interpretations

Limitations of BMI

BMI has some limitations as a metric such as:

  • Factors such as age, sex, ethnicity, and muscle mass can influence the relationship between BMI and body fat
  • BMI does not distinguish between excess fat, muscle, or bone mass
  • BMI does not provide any indication of the distribution of fat among individuals.

Despite these limitations, BMI continues to be widely used as a way to measure body size as they help to give your doctor an idea of the standard weight compared to your height.

How Is Obesity Treated?

Common treatments for overweight and obesity include weight loss through healthy eating, diet, taking part in some moderate physical activity, and making other lifestyle changes. 

Some people who have obesity are unable to lose enough weight to improve their health or are unable to keep from regaining weight. In such cases, a doctor may consider adding other treatments, including weight loss medications or even surgery.

Common Prescription Weight Loss Pills in Singapore

There are multiple FDA-approved prescription weight loss drugs in Singapore and some common ones include:

Orlistat (Xenical, Alli)

Orlistat promotes weight loss by decreasing the amount of dietary fat absorbed in your intestines. Lipase, an enzyme found in the digestive tract, helps break down dietary fat into smaller components, so it can be used or stored for energy. Orlistat inhibits the work of lipase. When you take the drug with a meal, about 25% of the fat you consume isn’t broken down and is eliminated through bowel movements.

Phentermine (Duromine/Panbesy/Qsymia)

Phentermine helps weight loss by decreasing your hunger or making you feel full longer. The expected average weight loss with phentermine use is 5-10% of your initial body weight over 12 weeks.

Naltrexone-bupropion (Contrave)

Contrave contains 2 active ingredients – Naltrexone and Bupropionis and is the newest weight loss medicine available in Singapore.

It works by modifying 2 areas of the brain that control hunger and cravings.

It works especially well for people with a “hungry brain”. In other words, people who do not actually feel hungry but eat because their brains tell them to. Common symptoms of hungry brain include:

  1. Addiction eating – Eating to feel good (medically speaking to get the endorphin hit)
  2. Subconscious eating – Eating while distracted or tired
  3. Emotional eating – Eating for comfort when stressed or in a low mood

Studies have found that the effects of Contrave can be seen after four weeks of using the medication. After 16 weeks, roughly 45% of study participants experienced a 5% or greater reduction in body weight.

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

Weight loss medications are not magic bullets. They need to be used alongside calorie restriction, behavioural modification and exercise programs.

Who Is Suitable For Prescription Weight Loss Pills?

All medical weight loss treatments are only for people who are overweight or obese.

Your doctor may consider a weight-loss drug for you if:

  • you haven’t been able to lose weight through diet and exercise; and
  • your BMI is:
    • greater or equal to 30 kg/m²; or
    • greater or equal to 27 kg/m² with obesity-related risk factors, such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol or type 2 diabetes.

Where Can I Buy Orlistat/Xenical or Phentermine/Duromine/Panbesy or Contrave in Singapore?

Prescription weight loss pills as the name suggests, are only available with a prescription from a licensed doctor in Singapore. 

At Siena, our doctors are best equipped with the knowledge to determine if and which weight loss medication is best suited for you. Connect with one of our doctors via an online video consultation and if prescribed, we deliver your treatment plan right to your door in a discreet packaging at $0.