The Health Products Regulatory Authority (HPRA) has issued a warning over the "serious health risks" associated with the use of the unauthorised substance 'Melanotan 2', which is being sold online and on social media as a "self-tanning aid".
The substance is being sold as an injectable powder, nasal spray or drops, however, it has not been authorised by the HPRA or any regulator to treat any condition, nor for the purpose of changing skin colour.
A number of health effects have been reported both in Ireland and internationally as being associated with the use of Melanotan 2, including the development of new moles, the darkening of existing moles and freckles, vision loss, stroke, muscle tremors and anaphylaxis.
"Despite the manner in which products containing Melanotan 2 may be presented to consumers they are not cosmetic products. Products intended to be inhaled, injected or absorbed from under the tongue cannot be classified as cosmetics," a statement from the HPRA said.
"As Melanotan 2 has not been authorised as a medicine, there is no guarantee of its safety, what it contains and how it is manufactured."
Between January 2020 and June 2022, the HPRA has removed over 500 social media or e-commerce listings relating to Melanotan 2, while the authority is also engaging with social media platforms to limit its sale and promotion.
"Consuming Melanotan 2 presents a real risk to your health," the HPRA's director of compliance Grainne Power said.
"We urge people to consider the fact that there is no supporting safety data available for this substance before they inject it into their body or inhale it into their lungs.
"Melanotan 2 is not an authorised medicine in any form; it is not available in any pharmacy or any mainstream retail outlet. However, 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.
"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.
"There is no data to support any safe use in any form and anyone using it is taking huge personal health risks," she added.
Consumers who have used Melanotan 2, Melanotan, Melanotan II, or MT2 products are being advised not to use the products again and to seek medical advice from their doctor regarding any health concerns.
Instances of suspicious activity around the sale and supply of Melanotan and associated products can also be reported to the HPRA by emailing email@example.com, or by calling 01-634 3871/01-634 3431.