Pharmacists call for total ban of toxic chemicals used in fake ‘diet pills’

UK pharmacists have called for an outright ban on 2,4-dinitrophenol (DNP) to stop ‘unscrupulous’ marketers tricking the public into taking pills containing the industrial chemical for weight loss. The Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS) said it wanted to see prosecution for anyone seeking to profit from its sale.

DNP has sometimes been used to make dyes, wood preservatives, explosives, and pesticides, and is unfit for human consumption. Nevertheless, it is sold online as a “diet pill” by marketers who exploit its ability to uncouple oxidative phosphorylation by transporting protons across the mitochondrial membrane, resulting in rapid energy consumption without the generation of adenosine triphosphate.

As a cellular metabolic poison, the result for those who consume it includes multiple organ failure and death.

There have been at least 32 DNP-related deaths in the UK since 2007, including 24 since the start of 2015, according to the National Poisons Information Service in its report 2020-21in which he noted that systemic exposure carries a high risk of mortality and occurs more often in the UK than in most other countries.

Between 2007 and 2020, the UK’s National Poisons Information Service recorded 138 cases of DNP poisoning. The report urged UK governments to consider further measures to limit exposure. The Ministry of the Interior was consultant on whether to add DNP to the list of regulated poisons.

Complete ban

In his submissionthe RPS said inclusion under the Poisons Act 1972 would not go far enough and should instead be “completely prohibited and not provided under any circumstances”.

He continued: “We are concerned that DNP is still circulating and often targets image-conscious young people who might want to try quick fixes to improve the[ir] body image, especially in the aftermath of confinement.”

RPS chair Professor Claire Anderson said: “If the Home Office is not considering a ban, then in addition to adding DNP to the list of poisons to control its supply, legislation should be passed that would ban the composition of DNP. This would make it illegal to put DNP in sachets or capsules for human, animal or agricultural use.”

She added: “Never believe what you see online about DNP – if you want to lose weight, talk to a healthcare professional instead. You risk death if you buy DNP online.”