ST. LOUIS — Drug maker Fleming Pharmaceuticals is increasing production of a drug for preventing thyroid cancer in response to the nuclear crisis in Japan.
The drug, ThyroShield (potassium iodide), is designed for use in nuclear emergencies and works by saturating the thyroid gland so that it can’t absorb radioactive iodine.
“ThyroShield is not routinely stocked in large quantities, but we are putting a plan in place that expedites production and delivery,” Fleming Pharmaceuticals president Phill Dritsas said. “However, in the case of Japan, we simply don’t have enough inventory to even begin to fill a need that great and immediate.”
State and local governments are required to provide potassium iodide medicine to citizens living within 20 miles of the country’s 104 nuclear power plants, and the federal government has stockpiled millions of doses for governments to distribute.
“Some of the nation’s stockpile of ThyroShield has already expired, and the remaining inventory will expire over the next year and a half,” Dritsas said. “If federal officials were to decide to donate the existing medicine, while it is still viable, for humanitarian efforts in Japan, 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.”