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Wednesday,
January 29, 2003

 



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Other | Article published Wednesday, January 29, 2003
2 drug-makers to offer radiation pills
Sale of potassium iodide expected by spring

By
BLADE STAFF WRITER


Once tightly controlled by the government, potassium iodide pills - which offer protection from the radioactive effects of a nuclear fallout - could soon be as easy to find on drugstore shelves as aspirin.

The cost wonít be quite as cheap. But at roughly $10 for a two-week supply, it wonít be nearly as exorbitant as a lot of over-the-counter drugs and vitamins, either.

While Internet sales for those products and similar ones have reputedly been brisk since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, only two companies have received Food and Drug Administration approval to sell potassium iodide pills at U.S. retail outlets.

One is Anbex of New York, which received approval weeks ago for its product, Iosat.

Anbex got authorization to start manufacturing Iosat in 1982, in response to the 1979 accident at the Three Mile Island nuclear plant in Pennsylvania.

The other is a Swedish company called RECIP AB, which yesterday announced that its newly formed U.S. division, called RECIP US, has received approval to sell potassium iodide pills at U.S. retail outlets under the brand name ThyroSafe. It has sold a similar item in Europe for years.

Potassium iodide combats thyroid cancer, a result of radiation exposure, by flooding the thyroid glands with harmless iodine and stopping radioactive iodine from getting in.

"Itís no longer this obscure survivalist drug. Itís gone mainstream," Jo Flattery, Anbex spokesman, said.

Bill Detwiler, RECIP spokesman, said potassium iodide has been in greater demand because terrorist attacks "woke us up to the reality of the world."

He said RECIP expects to have ThyroSafe on the shelves of drug and food stores by the end of April, including a 65-mg childís dosage.

Anbex is moving fast toward getting its 130-mg adult dosage on retail shelves and is manufacturing a 65-mg pill for children, Ms. Flattery said.

The sudden availability of potassium iodide pills occurs as Ottawa County officials are giving away thousands to 23,000 people who live within 10 miles of FirstEnergy Corp.ís Davis-Besse nuclear plant, as part of a campaign administered by the Ohio Department of Health.

That campaign, one of 17 at the state level funded by the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, will provide free pills to Ohio residents within 10 miles of the Perry and Beaver Valley plants, too.

The pills have a five-year shelf life. One catch to the program is the NRCís position to have states pick up the cost of any future distributions.

Ohioís distribution campaign was well under way before Davis-Besseís high-profile problems - including a reactor head that nearly ruptured - became known in March.

Officials have debated for years whether they would be instilling fear or a false sense of security by making the pills widely available. Michigan does not stockpile them for the general public.




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