Deadly Diet Pill Available OnlineApr 24, 2015
The death of a young woman in the U.K. who took toxic diet pills she bought online highlights the challenges in regulating pharmaceuticals sold on the Internet.
Eloise Aimee Parry died on Sunday, April 12, hours after taking pills believed to contain the toxic substance called dinitrophenol (DNP). According to her mother, Eloise "was literally burning up from within," CBS News reports. Researchers say DNP speeds up the metabolism to the point where the individual suffer hyperthermia, rapid breathing and heartbeat, cardiovascular collapse and death. DNP has been linked to at least 62 deaths over several decades.
Former Food and Drug Administration (FDA) medical officer Dr. David Gortler said the same danger exists in the U.S., because the FDA does not have the authority to regulate dietary supplements from other countries that come by mail. Gortler worked at the FDA's division of metabolism and endocrinology and is now a drug safety expert with the web site www.formerFDA.com, according to CBS News. Gortler said DNP, an organic chemical, has been used as an antiseptic and in photo development. The chemical is not an approved drug in the United States.
There have been incidents involving online sales of DNP in the U.S, according to records from the FDA's Office of Criminal Investigation. In 2002, the agency investigated sales of DNP after the father of a young woman who died wrote to the U.S. Postal Service saying his daughter bought the product through the mail. In investigating that case, health officials linked two other investigations involving suspicious mailings of DNP. Two men were arrested and convicted for running selling dangerous diet aids. And in a case investigated by the FDA’s Detroit district office and the postal service, an Ohio man was arrested. In that case, a woman was hospitalized when she experienced rapid heartbeat, flushing and profuse sweating after taking the pills.
Gortler said "DNP . . . has a long history of significant safety issues, which is why it is not an approved drug," according to CBS News. "The FDA recommends not taking this drug in any amount. I'm sure the company sending this supplement was only too happy to take Ms. Parry's money without warning her of the significant safety issues with this supplement. Basically everyone selling dietary supplements for the purpose of weight loss is a liar and charlatan, preying upon individuals who don't understand the pharmacology of obesity."
Weight loss and dietary supplements at retails stores are not regulated by the FDA. Under the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act of 1994 (DSHEA), supplements containing established ingredients—those that were sold in the U.S. before 1994¬— may be marketed without the manufacturer providing evidence to show they are effective or safe. For new supplement ingredients, the manufacturers must supply proof to the FDA that the ingredient is safe, CBS News reports.
Many health officials are calling for reformulation of laws to give the FDA greater authority over supplements. Health officials are investigating a number of unregulated supplements, including homeopathic remedies and supplements containing the amphetamine-like ingredient BMPEA. In addition, New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman launched a crackdown on dietary supplements found not to contain the herbs or extracts claimed on the label.