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A New Low in Panicked U.S. History: Hoarding Potassium Iodide Pill

Business is booming at three FDA-approved makers of potassium iodide pills, a preventive against radiation poisoning of the thyroid gland. Curiously, not one of them has thanked the slew of panicky Americans, specifically West Coasters, for the uptick in sales.

Anbex, Recipharm and Fleming Pharmaceuticals all sold out within days of Japan's earthquake-tsunami-nuclear disaster and aren't expected to have any new supply until next month. Now clearly, these companies are in the business of selling potassium iodide pills, which U.S. law dictates must be available to communities near the country's 104 nuclear facilities. None of these companies created the initial panic that led to the sudden run on the pills. But they haven't exactly quelled concerns either.

For example, Recipharm's release, which makes not one mention of the real reason -- ahem, paranoia in the U.S. -- behind the sales.

As a result of the sad events in Japan we have seen unprecedented demand leading to a stock out situation. We are currently producing new supplies and this activity actually commenced the day after the initial earthquake and tsunami occurred.
Heck, the way the release reads, you'd think the pills were all headed to Japan, not a bunch of freaked out Californians living more than 5,000 miles from the troubled nuclear reactor. At least Fleming offers some insight and even a worthy suggestion. That is, right before it sprinkles gasoline on the paranoia fire. (I've annotated a bit in italics.)
Some of the nation's stockpile of ThyroShield has already expired and the remaining inventory will expire over the next year and a half. If federal officials were to decide to donate the existing medicine, while it is still viable, for humanitarian efforts in Japan [now there's an idea], that could address the immediate need there AND give us time to accelerate production here and work with the federal government to replenish what was donated.

The scope of the issue goes beyond Japan however. [You don't say!] Some Americans on the West Coast are fearful that the radiation from Japan could drift to our shores, although that is not a real threat according to authorities [if you believe the authorities, which of course you don't]. And of course there is always the possibility of an unrelated leak here on our own soil. [Just imagine!] The Japan incident has heightened awareness of the dangers of radiation exposure.

Photo from Flickr user Blatant News, CC 2.0
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