Irish man dies after taking toxic DNP slimming tablets

By Annie Harrison-Dunn

- Last updated on GMT

Irish authorities warn consumers not to buy health products online
Irish authorities warn consumers not to buy health products online

Related tags Pharmacology

A young Irish man has died after apparently taking slimming tablets bought online that contained the toxic fat burner dinitrophenol (DNP), the Irish Health Products Regulatory Authority (HPRA) has said.

The HPRA warned consumers against buying slimming products or any prescription medicines from unregulated online sources.

“The criminal networks behind many of the illicit websites are passing themselves off as legitimate pharmacies,”​ a spokesperson told us.

She said it could not give more information on the brand or retailer since it was an open investigation, although separate products had been seized using a search warrant. Details of the victim were not given to protect him and his family, although The Irish Times reported he was in his mid-20s when he died back in May.

The Irish national police service, An Garda Síochána, and the HPRA would be liaising on their separate investigations into the supply of the product, which started when a health care professional reported the case.

The case had been referred to a local coroner and no further information on how much DNP the man had consumed was available at this point.

The incident came just two months after a 21-year-old British woman died after taking DNP​-containing slimming tablets bought online, prompting UK police and authorities to issue similar warnings. 

DNP is an industrial chemical not fit for human consumption. A 2011 paper published in the The Journal of Medical Toxicity​ said at the time there had been 62 published deaths in medical literature linked to DNP worldwide. The substance has been banned and/or officially warned against in many countries including the UK.

Online grey zone  

In a statement HPRA chief executive Pat O’Mahony emphasised the danger of buying such products online.

DNP is used by those looking to lose weight as well as within the body building community. It speeds up the body's metabolism to a dangerous rate and can cause cataracts and skin lesions and may cause damage to the heart and nervous system. There is also animal study evidence that it is carcinogenic and increases the risk of birth defects.

It is also known as:

Solfo Black

“These investigations are on-going, and we strongly urge members of the public to never use the internet to source slimming products or any prescription medicines at any time - no amount of these products is safe to take. Bogus websites can be very sophisticated and appear to be legitimate. However, in reality they can be supplying unsafe and harmful products.

“Laboratory analysis of products detained in the past has shown that medicines being sold through illicit websites will often contain too little or too much of the active ingredient or may contain undeclared and harmful substances.”

A spokesperson said HPRA, Revenue’s Customs Service and An Garda Síochána, worked together all year round to monitor and investigate instances of illegal supply of medicines via the internet and actively enforced suspected breaches of the law.

However, one key challenge was cross-border accountability.

“As websites, suppliers and the people taking the money are usually located in different countries it places an additional importance on national and international cooperation between enforcement agencies in combating this illegal trade. 

“Working together we all seek to stop dangerous medicines from reaching unsuspecting customers and the HPRA is very much involved in linking with its counterparts across Europe and globally on this issue."

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