UK health chiefs are urging social media sites to ban advertising for an illegal weight gain drug.
NHS England has called for Instagram to put a stop to advertising for Apetamin, an appetite stimulant, which is currently illegal in the UK. Accounts promoting the drug are targeting users, most notably young women. Apetamin is not licensed in the UK but research suggests that it can be bought online.
In an open letter, representatives from NHS England raised concerns about the potential dangers of Apetamin. Chiefs suggested that taking the drug can cause extreme fatigue, jaundice and liver failure.
Apetamin syrup is promoted widely on social media, usually by influencers who have large followings among young women. Influencers are advertising the drug as a quick and easy means of gaining weight to achieve the kind of hourglass figure that has become sought-after as a result of the popularity of celebrities including the Kardashians and Cardi B.
In response to a BBC documentary entitled, ‘Dangerous Curves,’ Instagram insisted that it had removed accounts found to be promoting Apetamin but NHS England suggests that there are still several active profiles and accounts encouraging users to buy the drug in the quest for a perfect body.
In the open letter, which is signed by National Medical Director, Stephen Powis and National Mental Health Director, Clare Murdoch, NHS England demanded an immediate response from social media platforms. Experts said that they were extremely concerned about the physical and mental impact of promoting the banned drug and added that social media bosses had a “duty of care” to customers and app users. The letter has also been signed by the Body Dysmorphic Disorder Foundation.
The BBC also commented that it had found Apetamin for sale on Instagram following the documentary release in April.