Urban legends

FALSE: Combined Coke, Biogesic can induce abortion, combat depression

FALSE: Combined Coke, Biogesic can induce abortion, combat depression
Both Unilab and the Department of Health say the combination of Coke and Biogesic is not an abortifacient; neither does it have anti-anxiety and anti-depression effects
At a glance
  • Claim: Coca-Cola and Biogesic combined can induce abortion and can combat anxiety and depression. The combination is also said to cause organ damage. 
  • Rating: FALSE
  • The facts: Both Unilab and the Department of Health (DOH) have said that the combination of Coke and Biogesic is not an abortifacient and it does not have anti-anxiety and anti-depression effects.
  • Why we fact-checked this: The claims can be seen spreading in several Facebook posts and in websites outside Facebook. 
Complete details

Several Facebook posts and websites outside Facebook are spreading claims of the alleged effects of the intake of Coca-Cola and Biogesic combined. The Facebook posts have thousands of interactions, as of writing. 

One widely circulating Facebook post about the effects of the combination of Coke and Biogesic says: “This drink is for people who has anxiety/depression DAW and pwede ring pampalaglag ng bata. the effect of this drink for those who has anxiety/depression is pampakalma DAW but its not good for our health.”

(From what I’ve heard, this drink is for people who have anxiety or depression, and can also be used to induce abortion. The effect of this drink for those who have anxiety/depression is to calm them, supposedly, but it’s not good for our health.)

Another widely circulating Facebook post says the Coke-Biogesic combination will cause a person to sleep for up to 10 hours and possibly not wake up. Another side effect, it says, is damage to organs.

These claims are false, according to both Unilab, which manufactures Biogesic, and the Department of Health (DOH).

Unilab said through a direct message from its official Facebook page: “Biogesic contains paracetamol. It is taken for the relief of minor aches and pains and for fever reduction. It is not an abortifacient (pampalaglag) or anxiolytic (pampakalma). Paracetamol (Biogesic) should only be used for its approved clinical indications, since using this medicine for other medical conditions may do more harm than good. The concomitant intake of Biogesic with Coke is not recommended.”

Asked to clarify if Coke could be used to aid in swallowing Biogesic (“para pababain”), Unilab answered: “Biogesic can be taken with a non-alcoholic beverage, preferably water, to help with swallowing. However, it should not be taken with any drink such as Coke for any usage other than the approved indications. Taking this medicine for other medical conditions may do more harm than good.”

Unilab further advised the public that information about Biogesic can be found in its Patient Information Leaflet and on Biogesic’s website

The DOH also responded in detail to the claims through email, citing supporting studies. The agency said there were currently no findings about the effects of taking Coke and Biogesic combined, including its alleged capability to be an abortifacient (which was briefly discussed in a Philippine-based study of beliefs regarding abortion), to lessen anxiety, or to cause organ damage.

On abortifacient effects, the DOH said that there was insufficient evidence to establish any link between the intake of sugar (found in Coke) or paracetamol during pregnancy with negative pregnancy outcomes. They also cited studies showing association with the intake of caffeine (also found in Coke) with increased miscarriage risk in high enough doses and low birth weight, but there were also studies saying that the evidence with regard to caffeine was insufficient

Related to this, the 8th edition of DOH’s Philippine National Formulary states that paracetamol belongs to pregnancy category C, which means: “Animal reproduction studies have shown an adverse effect on the fetus and there are no adequate and well-controlled studies in humans, but potential benefits may warrant use of the drug in pregnant women despite potential risks.”

Regarding anti-anxiety effects, the DOH cited human and animal studies showing that paracetamol could lower anxiety, though it must be emphasized that being an anti-anxiety medication was not among the indications listed in Biogesic’s Patient Information Leaflet. It was also not among the indications of paracetamol in the DOH’s Philippine National Formulary.

For Coke alone, the caffeine, long known to increase alertness, was shown to cause anxiety for high enough doses. Caffeine was also shown to amplify symptoms of depression on a patient in a case study. Moreover, at least one study had shown an association between drinking sugar-sweetened beverages like soft drinks and greater chances of depression. 

Regarding the capability to cause organ damage, overdose of paracetamol had been long known to cause liver damage, which the DOH reiterated in its correspondence, along with a citation of a study about the topic. Also, the DOH cited the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in the United States regarding the effects of frequent intake of sugar-sweetened beverages: “Frequently drinking sugar-sweetened beverages is associated with weight gain/obesity, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, kidney diseases, non-alcoholic liver disease, tooth decay and cavities, and gout, a type of arthritis.” – Percival Bueser/Rappler.com

Percival Bueser is a graduate of Rappler’s fact-checking mentorship program. This fact check was reviewed by a member of Rappler’s research team and a senior editor. Learn more about Rappler’s fact-checking mentorship program here.

Keep us aware of suspicious Facebook pages, groups, accounts, websites, articles, or photos in your network by contacting us at factcheck@rappler.com. Let us battle disinformation one Fact Check at a time.