Yellow Pills, When Liquor Leaves You Feeling Green


Published: January 2, 2005

La Rapidita is a popular hangover treatment in New York's Dominican neighborhoods. The company that makes it wants to reach new markets.

Countless New Year's Eve revelers awoke yesterday morning (or afternoon) longing to get rid of a sickening hangover, while many residents and visitors in the city's Dominican neighborhoods were convinced they had just the cure: a dose of La Rapidita, twoyellow pills that bodegas sell for a dollar and that are far more popular among Dominicans than over-the-counter remedies like Tylenol and Alka-Seltzer.

Francisco Alberto Polanco was among the fervent believers. "Between my woman and me, we drank half a gallon of Black Label last night," Mr. Polanco, 36, said just before noon as he walked into the Food Center bodega on St. Nicholas Avenue in Washington Heights to buy a bag of pork cracklings and a Rapidita.

Mr. Polanco, who was visiting from the Dominican Republic, said he had used it for three years and had taken a dose the night before . "It works," he said. "With La Rapidita, in about 30 minutes I'm rid of my headache." With the second dose, he said, the partying could begin anew.

Part of its allure, apparently, is the belief that La Rapidita is made in the Dominican Republic. "It is from over there," said William Javier, a 28-year-old Washington Heights resident who said he had used the remedy at least 50 times. "People who are here know it is from over there."

But despite his insistence, Mr. Javier was misinformed. La Rapidita, which came on the market 16 years ago, has always been manufactured on Long Island by Natural Health Products, a Dominican-American company whose headquarters is on Fifth Street in the East Village.

La Rapidita, which the company labels in English as "Hangover Helper," contains acetaminophen, calcium carbonate, thiamine mononitrate and 43 milligrams of caffeine. Essentially, it's like taking a Tums, a Tylenol, a Vitamin B1 supplement and half a cup of coffee. No matter. It sells. "This sold out in two days," said Mercedes Núñez, a worker in Santiago Food Market, on St. Nicholas Avenue, as she held up an empty box that had contained 30 two-pill packets. "This won't last through tomorrow," she added, grabbing a new box.

"I need one right now," said Santiago Peralta, 55, who at 11 a.m. had just arrived at his job as a driver at Dan's Supermarket after a night of drinking with family and was slumped over a parking meter, looking a little green. Mr. Peralta, who lives in the Bronx, said he had dragged himself into work. It appeared to be a monumental accomplishment. "In Santo Domingo, I bought them by the dozen."

The general manager of Natural Health Products, David Matos, said that La Rapidita was available in at least 14,000 groceries and convenience stores, mostly in Dominican neighborhoods in the Northeast from Lawrence, Mass., to Atlantic City. It is also available in several thousand more stores in Florida, Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic.

Mr. Matos said that the company was targeting other markets, like the East Village and the Lower East Side, in part because of the large number of young people who live and drink there and in part because he lives there and knows local businesspeople. The company ended its Spanish-language radio and television advertising years ago ("Everybody knows about us already," he said) and has begun advertising in East Village cinemas.

Although the company Web site promises that "within 10 minutes your hangover or headache will be completely gone," Mr. Matos acknowledged that La Rapidita could only be so effective. "If you drank a liter of cognac, it's not going to relieve your symptoms," he said. "You'll have wait for the body processes to take effect."

Pablo Hernandez, who was walking down St. Nicholas Avenue at 10 a.m. yesterday, had, luckily, stayed away from cognac, downing merely two six packs of beer. He owed his very wakefulness, he said, to taking Rapidita on New Year's Eve. "I'm standing here because of it," he said, and then hurried off to catch up with friends.


La Rapidita continues to be manufactured in Long Island, New York, but with a new improved formula, now 100% natural. It does not contain acetaminophen, instead, this ingredient was replaced by a proprietary formula of 400mg of natural pain relief herbs to make it a more potent, safe and effective formula to treat hangovers and its symptoms.