Man died after taking ‘toxic’ DNP slimming pills

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By Thomas Mackintosh
BBC News, London

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Vaidotas Gerbutavicius

image captionVaidotas Gerbutavicius died after taking toxic pills sold as slimming aids.

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A 21-year-old died after taking a toxic chemical sold to him as illegal slimming pills, an inquest heard.

Vaidotas Gerbutavicius took 20 pills in March 2018 and told a police officer “he felt like his body was burning”.

Walthamstow Coroner’s Court heard he told his father he would be ‘dead in an hour’ after taking them.

In February Barry Clint Wright, of North Carolina in the US, was jailed for selling dinitrophenol (DNP) as an unlawful drug.

DNP has a variety of industrial uses, including as a photographic chemical, a fertiliser and in the manufacturing of dyes and explosives.

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DNP

image captionIt is illegal to sell dinitrophenol (DNP) for human consumption

Those who take the drug experience an increase in temperature and metabolic rate, which can prove fatal.

The court heard at the time of Mr Gerbutavicus’ death, the risks of DNP had not been circulated around the London Ambulance Service.

But, paramedic Daniel Crane said he had recently read an article on the dangers of DNP and requested a “blue light” call to Whipps Cross Hospital.

Whipps Cross University Hospital

image copyrightPA Media

image captionMr Gerbutavicius’ father had concerns that Whipps Cross Hospital staff “did not act in a timely manner”

On arrival Mr Crane said he told hospital staff Mr Gerbutavicius had taken a “potentially lethal toxic dose” of the drug – to which he said he was told “so is paracetamol if too much is taken”.

Senior nurse Leigh Donovan disputed this account in evidence, but admitted she was “unfamiliar” with the risks of DNP.

Mr Gerbutavicius’ father Andrius told the inquest he had concerns that Whipps Cross Hospital staff “did not act in a timely manner” as his son’s condition deteriorated.

‘Timely manner’

“I received a call from Vaidotas, I could tell from his voice he was drunk and hysterical and he said ‘dad I took something and I will be dead in an hour’,” he said.

“My wife and I arrived [at hospital] and we were told everything was under control. Doctors told us it wasn’t life-threatening.”

But, within an hour Mr Gerbutavicius was put in an induced coma and given CPR but died from to a cardiac arrest.

Whipps Cross Hospital clinical director Dr Mohammed Zia, who was not present during Mr Gerbutavicius’ care, said interventions “were taken in a timely manner”.

Shaz Nyod said he was one of the nurses who treated Mr Gerbutavicius but “was not sure” what DNP was at the time.

“The patient explained it to me along with senior staff,” Mr Nyod said. “I went through Google and I performed multiple observations per hour and informed the doctor of hyperthermia and agitation.

“I could see the patient sweating constantly and he said he was feeling very hot.”

Mr Nyod said he could not recall any measures being put in place to treat hyperthermia such as any ice packs being used.

But, Ms Donovan said in the time before Mr Gerbutavicius had a cardiac arrest around 13:30 staff “had used up all the ice packs” in their attempts to cool Mr Gerbutavicius down.

The court heard Mr Gerbutavicius’s father went to Florida earlier this year to see Wright be jailed for seven years.

The inquest continues.

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