Dr. Weeks’ Comment: Although experts told you to ignore the risk and not stock-up on iodine, you wisely ignored them and emptied the shelves to protect your loved ones.
If you didn’t stock up and find that you do need iodine, call the clinic 360-341-2303 we have some for you.
•MARCH 15, 2011
Potassium Iodide Runs Low as Americans Seek It Out
By JONATHAN D. ROCKOFF
Supplies of potassium iodide, a preventive against radiation poisoning of the thyroid gland, are running low at some manufacturers, as Americans seek protection amid fears that radiation from Japan could head to the U.S., according to the companies.
One leading supplier, Anbex Inc., quickly sold out of its supply of more than 10,000 14-tablet packages on Saturday, said Alan Morris, president of the Williamsburg, Va., company.
He said the closely held firm was getting about three orders a minute for $10 packages of its Iosat pills, up from as few as three a week normally.
“Those who don’t get it are crying. They’re terrified,” said Mr. Morris. The company tells callers that the likelihood of dangerous levels of radiation reaching the U.S. is low, but some callers, particularly on the West Coast, remain afraid, Mr. Morris said.
Interest is also high at Fleming Pharmaceuticals, a St. Louis County company that makes potassium iodide in liquid form. “It actually has been insanity here,” said Deborah Fleming Wurdack, a co-owner.
The company hasn’t accounted for all the recent orders, but Ms. Wurdack estimates the firm is getting dozens of calls an hour, along with emails, requesting the 45-milliliter ThyroShield bottles, which sell for $13.25 each.
Fleming Pharmaceuticals still has supply, but it expects to run out this week, Ms. Wurdack said. It is already planning to make a new round of the bottles, and to order the eyedroppers needed to dispense the solution.
Radioactive iodine can be accidentally released from a nuclear reactor.
Infants are especially at risk of injury, as are young children and people with small amounts of iodine in their thyroid.
Yet the risk is thought to be low that radiation released in Japan will reach the U.S. at dangerous levels. California and Washington state, for instance, have been reassuring residents that monitoring hasn’t detected any harmful levels of radiation, and they don’t it expect to.
“Japan has an evacuation area of about 12 miles from the nuclear plants. Washington state is 5,000 to 6,000 miles away from Japan,” said Tim Church, a spokesman for the Washington State Department of Health.
Likewise, California’s Department of Public Health has been advising residents to resist taking precautionary measures like buying potassium iodide, said spokesman Mike Sicilia.
The drug could cause side effects in people who are allergic to shellfish or suffer from thyroid problems, Mr. Sicilia said.
But the public-health agencies said they had been fielding calls from people asking if they should buy potassium iodide.
The drug information center at the University of Utah Hospitals and Clinics has also been receiving inquiries today from people asking about potassium iodide, said Erin Fox, manager of the organization’s drug information service.
Purchase of potassium iodide doesn’t require a prescription, Ms. Fox said.
Potassium iodide is a salt that stops the body from taking in radioactive iodine that can be emitted during a nuclear emergency.
It fills up the thyroid gland, preventing it from collecting the radioactive material and reducing the risk of cancer, among other things.
The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission says evacuation is the best protection, since it protects the entire body, but taking the medicine is helpful if that isn’t possible.
The NRC has asked states with residents living within a 10-mile radius of a nuclear-power plant to consider potassium iodide, but hasn’t ordered states to make the purchases.
Fleming has received orders from some states that are worried because their stockpiles of potassium iodide will expire in the near future, Ms. Wurdack said. Also making orders, she added, were hospitals and pharmacies.