Interpol issues global alert over potentially lethal diet pills

International police Interpol on Monday issued a global alert over an illicit and potentially lethal drug used as a dieting and body-building aid. -- PHOTO: ST FILE
International police Interpol on Monday issued a global alert over an illicit and potentially lethal drug used as a dieting and body-building aid. -- PHOTO: ST FILE

International police Interpol on Monday issued a global alert over an illicit and potentially lethal drug used as a dieting and body-building aid.

The Orange Notice warning about 2.4-dinitrophenol (DNP), which is also used as a raw material for explosives, was issued after one woman died in Britain and a Frenchman was left seriously ill after taking the substance, Interpol said in a media statement.

Briton Eloise Aimee Parry, 21, died on April 12 after taking eight DNP tablets bought on the Internet. British news site The Guardian reported that Ms Parry's death was the fifth in the country to be attributed to DNP, and that more than 60 people worldwide have died as a result of taking the pills.

On April 29, Interpol published the Orange Notice about the product, which has been classified as "Imminent Threat".

"This product was used in the 1930s to stimulate metabolism and induce weight loss, but was quickly withdrawn because of severe side effects and, specifically, its high risk of mortality which resulted in the deaths of numerous patients who had taken the product," the Notice said.

The Notice says that DNP is ordinarily sold as a plain yellow powder, either in loose form or more commonly, in capsules. It is also sold in cream form.

In one case, the information printed on the box says: "Health and Beauty Turmeric capsules Extra Strength 125 mg each capsule. Contains 125 mg of Turmeric Powder DO NOT USE IF SEAL IS BROKEN."

"In order to divert the attention of law enforcement agents, the DNP distributors take advantage of the product's resemblance with a spice (yellow powder), to falsely claim that the capsules contained turmeric," the Notice said.

Issued at the request of the French Ministry of the Interior's Central Office for the Protection of the Environment and Public Health, the alert has been circulated to law enforcement in all 190 member countries.

jalmsab@sph.com.sg