Illegal tanning injections which are said to trigger a host of health problems were being sold to Britons on eBay.
MailOnline found Melanotan II, which comes in powder form and is diluted in water, was easily available on the online marketplace despite being banned in the UK.
The drug was even being sold in DIY injectable kits that came with syringes, needles, alcohol swabs and vials of water.
The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) – which ensures drugs are safe to use – has branded melanotan dangerous. It said it has received reports of up to 74 separate side-effects.
Melanotan II, an injectable tanning drug banned in the UK, is being sold to Britons on eBay. Some come with DIY starter kits that include syringes, needles, alcohol swabs and vials of water
The drug comes in powder form and is diluted in water before being injected into the skin. It’s a synthetic hormone which encourages the body to produce melanin, the pigment which gives skin its colour
They include acne, stomach pains, eye disorders, sickness, and even heart problems.
In some cases the drug caused the enlargement of moles and freckles which led to the misdiagnosis of cancer.
MailOnline found three sellers offering to distribute melanotan II to UK customers on eBay for between £22 and £28.
The sellers were all European – two from Castricum, Holland, and one from Moscow -and had 100 per cent positive user feedback from more than 250 buyers.
In each listing, the sellers said the drug gives ‘a nice summery skin tan for every skin type’.
Melanotan is banned in most countries including the US and Australia. Under UK law it is illegal to ship or sell both variants of the hormone but it is not illegal for customers to buy it.
Sellers in Britain face up to two years in jail and an unlimited fine. Melanotan II is an synthetic hormone which encourages the body to produce melanin, the pigment which gives skin its colour.
Melanin acts as the body’s natural protection from the sun, and skin gets darker when more of it is present.
While melanotan does not instantly give people tans, it makes the skin overproduce the pigment whenever it’s exposed to UV rays.
One seller, from Moscow, had 100 per cent positive feedback from 212 customers and was selling 10mg of the drug for £26.78
The ‘transformation’ images used on several of the listings showed two pairs of generic legs, one pale and one bronzed and claimed to be the results from melanotan use
The drug is available in two forms – Melanotan I, which helps produce a tan, and Melanotan II, which is also known to boost libido.
WHAT IS MELANOTAN II?
The synthetic hormone works by stimulating pigment cells in the skin, causing them to produce more of the melanin that gives skin its darker colour.
Melanotan is a synthetic hormone used for tanning that works by increasing the levels of melanin, a natural dark pigment in the skin.
This pigment is part of the body’s natural response to the sun, and increasing levels of melanin results in skin darkening or tanning.
There are 2 types of Melanotan – Melanotan I and Melanotan II.
It is currently illegal to sell tan injections such as melanotan, as this product is unlicensed.
Melanotan is illegal in the UK because it has not been tested for safety, quality or effectiveness and no one knows what the possible side effects are or how serious they could be.
The MHRA (Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency) tests medical products in the UK. They are warning people not to use Melanotan and they say that the product is being ‘advertised and sold illegally’.
Source: Cancer Research UK and NHS.
Under UK law it is illegal to ship or sell both variants of the hormone but it is not illegal for customers to buy it.
Both versions of the drug are injected into the skin. Doctors fear that because the drug is self-injected, users of Melanotan are putting themselves at risk of infections such as hepatitis or HIV.
An MHRA spokesperson said: ‘MHRA has repeatedly taken action to remove Melanotan products from the market for over 10 years and will continue to do so where products fall within the definition of a medicinal product.
‘Melanotan is not a licensed medicine and therefore its quality and safety has not been tested; no information is held on where or how it is made nor what it contains.
‘This may be a quick fix but is certainly not a safe option and may have serious long-term health consequences.
‘Our advice is not to use this product and if you have used it and suffered side effects, speak to your doctor and report it to us through our Yellow Card Scheme.’
Dr Anjali Mahto, consultant dermatologist and British Skin Foundation spokesperson, said: ‘Melanotan is illegal in the UK. Its safety and effectiveness have not been tested and we have no idea of the associated long-term side effects.
‘Many side effects have been linked with melanotan including problems with changing moles or freckles, resulting in misdiagnosis of cancer or unnecessary operations, problems with the eyes, blood, stomach and heart.
‘As melanotan is injected, there is also a risk of blood-borne infections such as HIV and hepatitis if needles are shared.
‘Until we have more safety data on melanotan, its use should be avoided at all costs. The only way to tan safely is out of a bottle.’
Following MailOnline’s findings, eBay removed the listings and said it was ‘taking enforcement action against the sellers’.
A spokesperson added: ‘ ‘Any illegal items are strictly banned on our marketplace.’