COUNTY NEWS: Woman died after taking ‘rat poison’ diet pill

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A woman died after taking a controversial and dangerous diet pill likened to rat poison, an inquest has heard.

Rachael Cook, of Clarendon Road, Worthing, died in Worthing Hospital on May 15, three days after her 25th birthday.

At an inquest into her death, held in Horsham today (Friday December 11), West Sussex coroner Penny Schofield issued a stark warning over the dangers of taking Dinitrophenol (DNP).

The inquest heard that she took DNP at least twice after ordering the controversial substance from a Chinese website.

Dr Ryck Albertyn, an anaesthetist based at Worthing Hospital, said: “DNP is an awful drug. It is a poison - there is no other way to describe it.

“You may as well be taking rat poison. It should be moved from availability.”

The substance is outlawed in the USA.

It causes the body to run out of energy, accelerates metabolism to a dangerously fast level, and causes the body’s temperature to rise.

In 2013, Miss Cook and her partner Matt Watts decided to try for a family, but there were fertility issues and Miss Cook was advised to lose weight, the inquest was told.

Mr Watts said her weight dropped to as low as six and a half stone. She was eating just 300 calories a day, exercised regularly and took laxatives every day.

Miss Cook was taken to hospital on April 5 after suffering from symptoms including breathlessness, the inquest heard.

Her family then discovered she had taken DNP, but she was discharged.

On May 11, she met with her GP, who advised her of the dangers of DNP and told her people had died after taking it.

However, just three days later, on May 14, she was admitted to hospital again.

Miss Cook suffered a cardiac arrest, and though medical staff spent two hours attempting to resuscitate her, they were unable to save her.

Dr Albertyn said: “Nobody expected Rachael’s heart to stop.

“Everybody was shocked - it was a panicky situation all around.”

He also admitted to an ‘oversight’ regarding contacting Miss Cook’s family when her condition deteriorated.

Dr Jackie Gordon, a psychiatrist based at Worthing Hospital, met with Miss Cook shortly before her death.

She said: “I thought she didn’t want her life to end. She loved life, loved her partner, loved her family and was looking forward to having her own family one day.

“My concern from a psychiatric point of view was that she couldn’t guarantee to me she wouldn’t take this stuff again.

“The obsessional thinking around eating is very powerful and I felt she had that about her, however I have never come across anybody that has taken something as poisonous and nasty as this.”

She added: “It was a substance I have never come across before in my 25 years of practice. It is clearly an awful chemical.

“I contacted a couple of professors of eating disorders and neither of them were aware of this substance.”

Miss Cook’s mother Julie told the inquest the family had gone for an all-you-can-eat buffet to celebrate her birthday.

At the dinner, she made an effort to eat as much as possible and made sure her family were aware, her mother said.

Julie Cook said: “I know she took it (DNP) the second time because we were going out for a big meal.

“If it wasn’t her birthday, I don’t think we would be here today.”

In a statement read out during the inquest, she paid tribute to her daughter.

She said: “Rachael was bubbly, caring and selfless. She was adventurous and liked to try new things.

“She liked to rock climb and was very interested in vintage military vehicles, and went to military shows with her dad.

“Her main goal was to have a child. She was worried if she put on any weight she wouldn’t be able to have children.”

The family added: “We loved Rachael and we miss her terribly.”

A post mortem revealed the cause of death to be fatal Dinitrophenol toxicity.

Recording her conclusion, Ms Schofield said: “She was clearly a much loved member of your family.”

She recorded that Miss Cook died an accidental death.

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