It is reported that Eloise Aimee Parry, who died on 12 April 2015, was the victim of a lethal dose of a toxic chemical. The source has been traced back to diet pills the 21-year old university student had taken. It is believed these were bought online, though details of the supplier are not yet known.
Her death is a sobering reminder of the high risks of buying medicines and supplements online from unregistered websites. Police have warned consumers to be extremely cautious before buying these products over the internet. Clearly there are risks in using a cheap online source for essential medicines, which may be out-of-date, or fake and thus, ineffective; or from taking medicines and supplements that have been manufactured using harmful substances.
The particular contaminant that Miss Parry unwittingly took was dinitrophenol (DNP), an industrial chemical that is known to be highly toxic in small doses. It has the effect of inducing rapid fat loss when ingested, but does this by causing a massive increase in metabolism and body temperature. Once the drug has taken effect, there is no known means of reversing it.
In the UK, the Food Standards Agency has warned that DNP is unfit for human consumption, but it is still available online, by name, or as a component in some weight loss / slimming supplements. In the meantime, the number of unregistered online suppliers offering cheap medicines and supplements for sale is burgeoning. Many are overseas and are either unaware or unconcerned by the legal framework intended to protect UK consumers. As a result, consumers need to be very wary when searching online for cheaper sources for medication, or seeking supplements that are unavailable to buy on the high street.
Andrew Clayton of Penningtons Manches' clinical negligence and personal injury team cautions people to take extreme care before buying medicines and supplements online. "There are legal regulations in the UK," he explains, "that impose stringent testing and licensing requirements on the production of medicines. Many food supplements, including diet pills, fall outside the tight regulations governing medicines, although there are still detailed regulations governing the vitamins and minerals that may be used in their manufacture. Consumers can only be confident that their medicines and supplements have been lawfully manufactured by making sure they buy from a reputable source.
"The tragic news of Eloise Aimee Parry's death is a stark and sobering warning to those using online suppliers of both medicines and supplements. Whether driven by cheaper cost or to source substances not otherwise available, consumers need to be alert to the significant risks that these products may not fall within approved limits and should avoid them. They need to be absolutely vigilant in checking that the suppliers from whom they buy are registered to sell the product and that they carefully check the medicines and supplements they receive before taking them. Unscrupulous suppliers are selling unsafe products without regard for the law and consumers need to exercise every caution to avoid the costly risks that cheap online purchases might carry."