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March 17, 2011

The radiation from Japan’s nuclear power plant crisis has spurred a dramatic increase in sales of Potassium Iodide in the United States, reports The Huffington Post.

Potassium Iodide, also called KI, is a salt of non-radioactive iodine. In cases of radiological or nuclear events, people at high risk of radiation exposure may take potassium iodide to prevent radiation damage to the thyroid gland with can develop into cancer. It works by flooding the thyroid gland with non-radioactive iodine, preventing absorption of radioactive iodine. It does not cure the thyroid gland after radiation exposure or provide any measure of radiation protection to other organs in the body.

People on the west coast of the U.S. have been buying up supplies of potassium iodide due to fears of radiation drifting from Japan, despite government attempts to curb the panic by saying there is no radiation danger.

Consumers in the United States can purchase potassium iodide over the counter without a prescription. There are currently three such products on the market approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration: Iosat Tablets manufactured by Anbex, Inc. of Virginia, ThyroSafe Tablets (65 mg) produced by Recipharm in Sweden and ThyroShield Solution (65 mg/mL) made by Fleming & Company Pharmaceuticals in Fenton, MO.

Consumers should be aware of counterfeit and unapproved potassium iodide products.

“The FDA is alerting consumers to be wary of internet sites and other retail outlets promoting products making false claims to prevent or treat effects of radiation or products that are not FDA-approved,” the FDA said. “These fraudulent products come in all varieties and could include dietary supplements, food items, or products purporting to be drugs, devices or vaccines.”

­The FDA said consumers should be wary of the following:

  • claims that a product not approved by FDA can prevent or treat the harmful effects of radiation exposure;
  • suggestions that a potassium iodide product will treat conditions other than those for which it is approved, i.e., KI floods the thyroid with non-radioactive iodine and prevents the uptake of the radioactive molecules, which are subsequently excreted in the urine;
  • promotions using words such as “scientific breakthrough,” “new products,” “miraculous cure,” ”secret ingredient,” and ”ancient remedy”;
  • testimonials by consumers or doctors claiming amazing results;
  • limited availability and advance payment requirements;
  • promises of no-risk, money-back guarantees;
  • promises of an “easy” fix; and,
  • claims that the product is “natural” or has fewer side effects than approved drugs.

Don’t be fooled by professional-looking web sites. Avoid web sites that fail to list the company’s name, physical address, phone number or other contact information.

Even with FDA approved potassium iodide, there are risks of adverse health effects. People should take only the dose recommended by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC).

According to the CDC, “Newborn infants (less than 1 month old) who receive more than one dose of KI are at particular risk for developing a condition known as hypothyroidism (thyroid hormone levels that are too low). If not treated, hypothyroidism can cause brain damage. Infants who receive KI should have their thyroid hormone levels checked and monitored by a doctor. Avoid repeat dosing of KI to newborns.”

Some people, those with iodine sensitivity, may suffer allergies to the drug. People with skin disorders such as dermatitis herpetiformis or urticaria vasculitis should also not take the drug. Those with multinodular goiter, Graves’ disease and autoimmune thyroiditis must be cautious when taking potassium iodide.

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