Toxic slimming pill drug DNP to be declared poison

A highly toxic chemical compound sold illegally in diet pills is to be reclassified as a poison, a government minister has said.

Pills containing DNP, or 2,4-dinitrophenol, were responsible for the deaths of 32 young vulnerable adults, said campaigner Doug Shipsey.

His daughter Bethany, from Worcester, died in 2017 after taking tablets containing the chemical.

The deaths were down to a “collective failure of the UK government”, he said.

Legislation to regulate DNP was laid on Monday will come into effect on 1 October 2023, said security minister Tom Tugendhat.

In a letter to Mr Shipsey and his wife Carole, the security minister said he had received agreement across government for the proposals, following a public consultation.

Once the regulations were in force, it would mean DNP could only legally be sold to a member of the public by a registered pharmacist, and then only to someone with a valid licence issued by the Home Office, he said.

“These licences can only be issued to individuals who can demonstrate a legitimate use of the substance. Any sale to a person without an EPP licence will be unlawful.”

DNP was marketed as a diet pill in the US in the 1930s but selling it for human consumption has since been made illegal.

It was classified as a poison until 1996.

Presentational grey line

What is DNP?

It is highly toxic and not intended for human consumption.

An industrial chemical, it is sold illegally in diet pills as a fat-burning substance.

Users experience a metabolism boost, leading to weight loss, but taking even a few tablets can be fatal.

Signs of acute poisoning include nausea, vomiting, restlessness, flushed skin, sweating, dizziness, headaches, rapid respiration and irregular heartbeat.

Consuming lower amounts over longer periods could lead to cataracts and skin lesions and impact on the heart, blood and nervous system.

Experts say buying drugs online is risky as medicines may be fake, out of date or extremely harmful.

Presentational grey line

Mr Shipsey said he had targeted the minister following the death of another young man who had taken the drug sold as a slimming aid.

Vaidotas Gerbutavicius, 21, from Newham, London, took 20 pills in March 2018, and died within an hour of being admitted to hospital.

Prior to this, following the inquests of dozens of young people who had suddenly and unexpectedly died from DNP toxicity, the government had “ignored numerous coroners reports” to prevent future deaths, he said.

“So, at last after 32 deaths and almost six years of campaigning, the Home Office (HO) finally accept responsibility to control DNP under the Poisons ACT 1972,” he added

A meeting with the minister and co-lead campaigner Andrius Gerbutavicius, the father of Vaidotas, is set to take place on Monday.

A statement issued by both families, following the minister’s letter states: “Our loved [ones] innocently bought DNP on the internet, which is in the same explosives category as TNT and as lethal as cyanide, so will the Home Office ban online sales and implement blocks on search engine algorithms? If so when?”

The young people had died “because of the collective failures of the UK Government and especially the HO to protect its citizens from this heinous and fatally lethal substance.”

The average age of victims was between 21 and 22 years old, it continued, with most suffering some kind of mental health illness, eating disorder or body image issue.