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10mg vials of Melanotan Maroondah Leader

Health products regulator warns against unauthorised 'self-tanning' substance

The HPRA said that social media has had a huge role at popularising the product.

THE HEALTH PRODUCTS Regulatory Authority (HPRA) is alerting the public of the serious health risks posed by using the unauthorised substance Melanotan and warning consumers not to buy the self-tanning aid.

The substance, also known as Melanotan 2, Melanotan II, or MT2, is being sold as an injectable powder, nasal spray or drops.

Concerning health effects are associated with use of the substance, such as stroke, muscle tremors, anaphylaxis, development of new moles, darkening of existing moles and freckles, and vision loss.

The HPRA has noted an increase in activity on social media illegally advertising and offering Melanotan 2 products for sale. 

Between January 2020 and June 2022, over 500 social media or e-commerce listings relating to Melanotan 2-containing products were removed by the HPRA.

Director of Compliance with the HPRA, Grainne Power, stated: “We are seeing the growth of marketing and promotion akin to a cosmetic product, using images of glamour and golden tans, and offering simple ‘tanning injections’ or ‘nasal sprays’ to replicate an aspirational body image.”

She said that the HPRA is actively engaging with international social media platforms with the goal of limiting the sale and promotion of these products.

One website visited by The Journal which was selling the substance had the disclaimer “Research use only. Not for human or animal consumption!”

However the website listed the various tanning effects of Melanotan on humans, as well as claiming it could cure erectile dysfunction. 

Several parts of the website acknowledge that the substance is being shipped to Ireland, despite the fact that “the promotion, advertising or sale of Melanotan 2 via online sources or social media platforms is in effect selling a dangerous substance that has not been declared safe for human use and is illegal,” according to Power.

Another disclaimer on the site reads: “You must be a licensed and qualified healthcare practitioner” however no verification of this seems to be necessary to purchase an order of Melanotan.

Power concluded by stating that “There is no data to support any safe use in any form and anyone using it is taking huge personal health risks”.

Melanotan 2 has not been authorised as a medicine, and therefore has no guarantee of  safety, according to the HPRA.

The authority also warned consumers to be vigilant of false or misleading marketing in relation to the substance.

Products containing Melanotan 2 are not cosmetic products because products that are intended to be inhaled, injected or absorbed from under the tongue cannot be classified as cosmetics.

The chemical was flagged as a public health risk in Australia, with Australian Medical Association (AMA) vice-president Dr Anthony Bartone warning in 2017 that it can interfere with cancer diagnoses.

He stated that his main concern with Melanotan was its ability to darken skin moles which strongly interfered with the detection of melanoma.

“There are also extreme side effects such as nausea, vomiting, loss of appetite and stomach cramps,” Dr Bartone said.

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