by Nadeem Badshah
DEADLY diet pills which have not been tested in the UK are being sold on photo app Instagram, an Eastern Eye investigation has found.
The medicines on offer from overseas sellers include dinitrophenol (DNP), an industrial chemical used as a pesticide which has been linked to five deaths this year alone and is illegal for human consumption.
One Instagram post is offering 24 caps of DNP for $18 (£13.70) with the claim that it is the “most powerful fat burner in the world”. There are no ingredients listed in some of the adverts and the social media website is flooded with pictures of larger Asian women next to an image of a slimmer version of themselves.
Some sellers also hit out at“media hype” about the dangers of medicines including DNP, despite experts warning about side effects that include insomnia, lethargy and cramps.
Dr Kailash Chand, a GP and honorary vice-president of the British Medical Association, told Eastern Eye: “All slimming pills bought online are potentially dangerous. Some quick fixes for losing weight may have serious health consequences in the short or long term, including organ failure and death.
“In the UK, there are no medicines licensed for slimming, although some are licensed for treating obesity.
“Increasingly, people around the world are dramatically improving their health and either reducing or eliminating their need for medications by following a low carbohydrate diet.
“Pills are not the answer to unhealthy lifestyles. As well as an unsustainable cost for often marginal benefit, they always cause harm, and sometimes could even kill you.”
“Crooked peddlers should be prosecuted for crimes against humanity,” he added.
Banned DNP works by speeding up a person’s metabolism, but it can lead to users fatally overheating. It has been linked to 23 deaths in the UK since 2012 and Public Health England has warned that deaths from DNP use are increasing.
In June, an online dealer was jailed for manslaughter after supplying the drug to Eloise Parry, 21, who died in 2015 after taking eight pills containing DNP. Other Instagram posts include fitness fanatics boasting of taking 100mg of diet pills.
Sellers are also offering fatburning substance Clenbuterol, which is a Class C drug in the UK, and pills containing phentermine which has been linked linked to heart attacks and strokes.
Some adverts target young women by highlighting festive parties in the run up to Christmas. One said: “dietpillsphBER months mean more reunions, get-together celebrations, Octoberfest, Halloween costume parties and of course Christmas & New Year #HOLIDAYS2018!
“Look fabulous & be picture perfect on these occasions! Prepare as early as now!”
Dinesh Bhugra, professor of mental health and cultural diversity at King’s College London, said: “Sometimes people will use over the counter pills indiscriminately and get medication on the web, which may have spurious and dangerous compounds in them. These may lead to physical and psychiatric problems.
“Weight loss and dieting should be carried out carefully and under supervision. It is a slow process.
“Rapid weight loss is often due to water loss, which may cause kidney problems. Pills often can lead to significant side effects.
“It is important that balanced diet and proper exercise are used for achieving weight loss in a slow and measured manner.”
Some Instagram sellers in Europe are offering 100 DNP pills for £90 – or 90p each- with free shipping and tracking. Other messages pledge “burn fat fast” and “Flat stomach, be slim, weight loss, diet pills, fat burner, be sexy.”
A government study last year found that almost a third of people trying to lose weight have tried unlicensed slimming pills- with 63 per cent suffering side effects such as uncontrollable bleeding and heart problems. The Medicine and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency said it has seized £5 million worth of “dodgy diet pills” since April 2013.
Khalid Mahmood, Labour MP for Birmingham Perry Barr, said there is too much pressure, particularly on young Asian girls, to look slim.
He said,“In the image-conscious environment we live in, particularly social media use, photographs and selfies, everyone is looking good all of the time.
“Significant work needs to be done to raise awareness about medicine not approved in the UK which you buy through the internet and now Instagram.
“Different medication will have different side effects, people need to understand what they are.
“Long term it could ruin their bodies and develop psychological issues like depression. People should report these adverts to the Department of Health or doctor for advice before taking the pills.”