Health authorities in Ireland have started investigating the death of a man after taking an illegal weight loss medication that he was able to purchase on the Internet.

The Health Products Regulatory Authority (HPRA) along with police officials from the Garda Síochána are looking into the circumstances that led to the man's death in the middle of May. The regulatory agency said it had been informed about the incident just recently.

According to initial reports, the slimming drug the man took contained a highly toxic and deadly substance known as dinitrophenol (DNP), which is a common ingredient used in producing diet pills.

The substance is known to accelerate the metabolism of the body to dangerously high levels, leading to potentially fatal side effects. It is often used as a base component in making explosives.

Long-term use of DNP can lead to damaging of the heart and nervous system of a person. There have also been findings that point to potential development of cancer and an increased risk of birth defects due to the use of the substance.

The HPRA had issued a national alert on April 21 regarding the use of DNP after a 21-year-old woman in the United Kingdom died because of complications related to the drug.

Shrewsbury-native Eloise Aimee Parry died on April 12 after taking medication that contained DNP. Eloise's mother, Fiona, said that taking two DNP tablets was already lethal, but her daughter accidentally drank eight tablets. She said Eloise did not intend to take her own life.

"She just never really understood how dangerous the tablets that she took were," Mrs. Parry said.

The family of the Irishman who died is now cooperating with the HPRA and the local authorities in their investigation.

Pat O'Mahony, chief executive of the HPRA, warned the public against purchasing diet pills and other prescription medication on the Internet. He said that no amount of such drugs is safe for consumption.

"Laboratory analysis of products detained in the past has shown that medicines being sold through illicit websites will often contain too little or too much of the active ingredient or may contain undeclared and harmful substances," O'Mahony said.

The Health Products Regulatory Authority has already seized 93 illegal slimming tablets sent through mail order packages. The agency reiterates its warning that products with DNP are not suitable for human consumption and can lead to serious harm.

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