SINGAPORE: Interpol, the international police agency, has 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 hospitalised in a serious condition after consuming the substance, Interpol said on Monday.
Briton Eloise Aimee Parry, 21, died on April 12 after taking eight DNP tablets bought on the Internet. Her death was the fifth in the country to be attributed to DNP, according to the Guardian daily, which said the drug had been linked to the deaths of more than 60 people worldwide.
On April 29, Interpol published the Orange Notice about the chemical, 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"This product was used in the 1930s to stimulate metabolism and induce weight loss, but was quickly withdrawn because of severe side effects and, specifically, its high risk of mortality that resulted in the deaths of numerous patients who had taken the product," the notice said.
It said DNP was ordinarily sold as a plain yellow powder, either in loose form or, more commonly, in capsules. The drug is also sold in cream form.
In one case, the information printed on the box said: "Health and Beauty Turmeric capsules Extra Strength 125mg each capsule. Contains 125mg 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," Interpol 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.
The mother of the latest British victim said her daughter's metabolism had "exploded like TNT" after she took the pills to lose weight, causing her to burn up from the inside.
Parry began feeling unwell around lunchtime on April 12 and drove herself to a hospital, where she explained to doctors what she had taken.
Doctors carried out a toxicology report but were unable to help her daughter, Fiona Parry said in a posting online.
"The drug was in her system, there was no antidote, two tablets were a lethal dose and she had taken eight. As the drug kicked in and started to make her metabolism soar, they attempted to cool her down but they were fighting an uphill battle. She was literally burning up from within," the mother said.
Dinitrophenol has also caused one death in Singapore. A 24-year-old woman died of DNP poisoning in 2012 after consuming slimming pills bought online. – The Straits Times/Asia News Network