Experts are reassuring U.S. residents that little radiation will travel to the West Coast, despite prevailing winds over Japan's Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant. But that hasn't stopped people from rushing to pharmacies for potassium iodide pills, which have long been used to prevent thyroid problems caused by radiation exposure.
Together with Japanese companies ordering potassium iodide for their employees, the U.S. demand surge is fueling big sales for drugmakers. The three FDA-approved suppliers of the drug say they're struggling to keep up with demand, the New York Times reports. "We've sold more in the past three days than we have in the past three years," Jim Small, president of Recipharm's U.S. operations, told the newspaper.
As the Los Angeles Times reports, California residents have been hoarding the pills, figuring it can't hurt to use them as a hedge. However, potassium iodide isn't recommended until radiation levels hit tens of thousands of microsieverts, the newspaper says, and levels aren't expected to approach that in the U.S.