Losing a child is unimaginable. Losing a child to a toxic chemical, sold as a slimming pill, is even more so. But that’s what five families this year are having to come to terms with.
ITV News can reveal that 2,4-Dinitrophenol, or DNP, has killed five men in the last six months.
It’s sold on the internet for body building and weight reduction, yet it is illegal for human consumption because of its highly poisonous components.
In 2016 one person died from it, two in 2017 and already in 2018 five fatalities have been recorded. The figures could be higher because data for this little known drug is so sparse.
Andrius Gerbutavicius’s son, Vaidotas, bought DNP on the internet. He’d been using it on and off for three years.
In March this year, Andrius got a panicked phone call from his 21-year-old son.
He’d taken around 20 capsules of DNP and was feeling very unwell. Four hours later, after being put into an induced coma, he died.
“It was a normal Saturday morning, 10th of March, we wake up to a call from our son. I pick up the phone, he told me, ‘dad I’ve overdosed on DNP,'” Andrius told ITV News.
He went on: “He said ‘I’ve overdosed, I will be dead in probably one hour, no one can help me.”
Andrius had no idea what DNP was, let alone how toxic it was. He’s angry it is readily available to buy and marketed as a weight loss drug.
He said: “I want to warn anyone who considers taking it as a slimming pill, don’t do that because now we know that any quantity could be deadly and at the moment there is no antidote.
“I will do everything that I can to prevent other families going through the same thing.”
DNP basically heats the body from the inside out. It prevents energy being stored as fat and can damage the cells of organs such as muscle, kidney and brain.
The increase in temperature can result in seizures, coma or kidney failure.
Professor Simon Thomas, from the National Poisons Information Service, has studied the drug.
“Specifically what DNP does to the body is it blocks the ability of the body’s cells to store energy, for example as fat and instead of being stored, that energy is then released as heat,” he said.
The National Poisons Information Service receives enquiries from health professionals all over the UK about patient’s they’re concerned about with poisoning.
Professor Thomas said: “At the last count 17% of all the patients that we were contacted about (regarding DNP) ended up dying from DNP poisoning.”
“There is a myth that taken in small does this drug is perfectly safe to use. That couldn’t be more wrong. Even in small, recommended doses, DNP can be fatal. Few people realise it’s harmful at all.”
Doug Shipsey lost his daughter to the drug. He’s now campaigning to have it banned and wants everyone to know how dangerous it is.
“Ultimately step one is to make sure that DNP is regulated and in the long term, that it’s banned. My aim is to get this substance banned, it is so lethal.”
He added: “This isn’t a diet pill, they’re swallowing a bomb, an explosive, it is in the same category as TNT.”
Doug and Andrius just want to get the message out. Despite the police trying restrict the illegal sale of it, they believe more needs to be done, urgently.
The Government acknowledges the negative health impacts of DNP but efforts to have it regulated as a drug are unlikely to succeed.
A Government spokesperson said:“DNP is an extremely dangerous poison which if consumed can lead to coma or death. Supplying DNP products for human consumption is illegal.
“As DNP is a poison and not a drug, it cannot be considered for control by the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs.”