NHS warns of ‘dangerous’ Instagram weight-gain drug

6 May 2021

By Lauren E. White

NHS England has written to Instagram urging the platform to clamp down on sales of a “dangerous” weight-gain drug.

The drug, Apetamin, is unlicensed but is sold and promoted on Instagram as a way of achieving the currently popular hour-glass figure.

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NHS England said in the letter – signed by medical director Professor Stephen Powis, national mental health director Claire Murdoch, and Kitty Wallace of the Body Dysmorphic Disorder Foundation – that the appetite stimulant “could result in serious harm to any individual who takes it.

“This substance is consumed as a supplement, to foster a specific body image and shape, deemed to be desirable by some high-profile influencers, and predominately targeted at younger women and girls.”

A prescription-only antihistamine is one of the ingredients in Apetamin and is linked to side effects such as dizziness, nausea, blurred vision, tremors, and liver toxicity.


It is important to note that the drug is not authorised for use in the UK and so should not be sold, supplied, or advertised.

In a BBC documentary last month, sales of the drug were highlighted and Instagram said it had removed the relevant accounts.

The NHS letter, however, claims that there are still “dozens of profiles” selling Apetamin, and they have asked for an “urgent update” on what steps Instagram is taking to clamp down on accounts promoting or selling the drug.

Just a note from us..

If you struggle with your body image or think you might have a difficult relationship with food or exercise, there are people who can help with that. Don’t feel ashamed to reach out for help – that’s the first step to getting better. You can do that below:

Beat is an eating disorder charity with free helplines for over-18s (0808 801 0677) and under-18s (0808 801 0711), open 365 days a year; at 9am-8pm during the week and 4pm-8pm at weekends.

Samaritans can help you with any issue – no matter how big or small. Their helpline is free and open 24/7. You can call them on 116 123.

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