What is DNP? Toxic slimming drug blamed for more than 30 deaths

Slimming pills bought online are not  regulated and could increase the risk of serious health risks and could even be fatal  (Shutterstock / fizkes)
Slimming pills bought online are not regulated and could increase the risk of serious health risks and could even be fatal (Shutterstock / fizkes)

A highly toxic chemical compound being sold illegally in diet pills has killed at least 33 people in the UK and will be reclassified as a poison, says a government minister.

This comes after a trend for weight-loss drugs among celebrities, with even Elon Musk admitting taking a drug called Wegovy, which needs to be taken under strict medical supervision.

Most prescription weight-loss drugs work by making a person feel less hungry, or fuller, and increase fat burning. However, many of these drugs are not FDA-approved and are being sold online without regulation by a professional.

Buying slimming pills online can be particularly risky, as the sellers are often unregulated and taking the pills puts people at risk of a number of serious health outcomes, including death.

So what is the toxic chemical that is to be reclassified as a poison, that is often in these slimming aids?

What is DNP in slimming drugs?

Slimming pills that contain DNP or 2.4 Dinitrophenol have been blamed for the deaths.

The pills have also been classified as an explosive and banned for human consumption. However, it’s been marketed as a weight-loss aid despite the dangerous ingredients.

Bethany Shipsey from Worcester sadly lost her life due to the slimming drug in 2017. She had reportedly bought the drug online from a website in Ukraine and was only 21 at the time.

Her parents Doug and Carole Shipsey are campaigning against the drug, with the deaths being called a “collective failure of the UK Government”.

Thanks to their efforts, DNP will be regulated under the Poisons Act of 1972, meaning any person who wants to purchase these drugs will have to produce a licence attained via a registered pharmacist.

This legislation will come into effect on October 1, 2023, said Security Minister Tom Tugendhat.

The Shipseys have been invited to the Home Office to meet with Mr Tugendhat.

“It’s a step in the right direction, but it’s not enough. You know, we want to go for an outright ban because, during the years since we lost Beth, we just can’t find any legitimate industrial uses, which is why the Government has been saying for all these years that it’s still legal to sell DNP,” said Mr Shipsey.

Bethany’s mother, however, has voiced her frustration about the long process it has taken to get DNP added to the poisons register.

She said: “We’ve lost one of the most precious things in our lives. And it’s really difficult because you watch her friends and within her peer group, they’re getting married and having babies and she should really be part of that.

“And it wasn’t the mental illness that killed her, it was the access to DNP.”