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Potassium Iodide for Japan PDF Print E-mail
Written by Mitra Ardron   
Wednesday, 16 March 2011 21:33

I just landed back in Australia, and Marshal Rubinstein, co-founder with me of the OneFridge project is getting Potassium Iodide tablets made and shipped to Japan as it is supposedly the best protection against radiation danger. We have heard they are very hard to get (even in the San Francisco bay area) at the moment, and the ones available are being sold at high prices by profiteers.

There are a number of challenges we are working on - both here and in Japan, and help would be useful with a couple of the points in our brief below relating to Import regulations and Distribution.

We could also potentially use a manufacturer in Japan and ship all the 150kg or what is left of it.

Below is a fact sheet - I'm updating this as things change - as often as hourly as its a rapidly moving project.



* Iodine ...
Radioactive iodine is taken up by the thyroid and causes damage. The best way to prevent is to fill the thyroid with non-radioactive iodine. Recommended dosage is 130mg (65mg for kids), and easiest source of this is Potassium Iodide. You can get it from food (e.g. kelp), but supposedly not quickly enough to fill the thyroid. We have info on this, but we aren't experts - just going on recommendations such as those at the CDC site.

In brief - but check the site!

  • To be effective it needs to be taken at the time of radiation exposure, or ideally shortly before, so every day counts.
  • Dosage for adults is 130mg per day, so for example if their is radioactive exposure for 25 days then 130mg * 25 days = 3.25g required.
  • Potassium Iodide has negative effects as well - so its best not to take it UNLESS significant exposure is likely.
  • Ideally it should be supervised by a doctor.

There are six issues.

1: Supply of the raw material.
We appear to have sourced the last 150kg of potassium iodide available in Australia, still trying to find more, it does NOT appear that the supply has dried up because other people are making it, it appears that is the total quantity sitting around, but there may be more and we are still looking.  This is enough for 90,000 people for 12 days.

Information provided to us suggests that large stockpiling companies in the US are manufacturing at full capacity but have been told not to sell to anyone.

2: Manufacture
We have a compounding chemist making up tablets. Working three shifts he can do about 75 bottles * 200 tablets a day. (Each bottle would last 1 person for 50 days; 2 for 25; 3 for 16 or 4 for 12 - and 12 might be enough days to get over the worst of any fallout)  - we've got the first few days production made and shipped. He has found a manufacture who can make 2000 bottles per day starting on 23rd March so that will take 23 days.

3: Export regulations in Australia
Therapeutic Goods Administration puts tough regulations on compounding chemists (at the request of the drug industry with who they compete with). Each bottle has to be labeled with the recipient customer - which is taking time especially since we don't have the names of the recipients. We are talking to a senator's office to lean on the TGA if needed.
This problem is solved.

4: Shipping
We have space in humanitarian flights to Japan, and TNT (couriers) are being very helpful with this and the paperwork required, but they are under the constraints of import/export regs. BUT we understand flights could be stopped if too much radiation gets into the upper atmosphere or Tokyo and that could be any day, so every day counts.

5: Import regulations in Japan
Japan requires an import permit unless we ship each bottle separately which gets very expensive (individual consignment notes take time and therefore $$$ at TNT, and we need names etc). Japanese bureaucracy does not seem to have sped up, and it could take several days to get a license - more if of course some of the necessary staff have evacuated. We could use someone well connected to lean on the process in culturally appropriate ways.
Looks like we have a doctor in Japan who will get an import license tomorrow (Friday 18th).
Import regs might be even harder if we were shipping 150kg of white powder and manufacturing in Japan if that were possible.

6: Distribution
We are working with a multinational hotel (I'll put their name here as soon as they give their ok!) who have been great. They are funding the first few hundred bottles for their staff and guests. They may have other ways to get it out there. We could use other ways to distribute - but need to avoid profiteers. We might need to be able to recover costs depending on how we source them so ideally people who for example want 1000 doses for their staff and can cover/recover the costs as needed.

7: Funding

Current cost is $60 per bottle of 200 tabs + shipping, cost should drop to $20 for 100 tablets with a larger manufacturer. And also if we can ship in quantity and reduce paperwork. So maximum $20*45,000 = $900,000 (1AU$ ~ 1US$).

We need about $150,000 as a deposit for the manufacture.

This should be recoverable through some distribution channels - we just want to avoid profiteering.

We currently need donations, or someone willing to guarantee the amount so we can manufacture before we source the distribution channel.

Note that we are doing this project as individuals - pro-bono , putting other projects on hold - help appreciated. We will arrange for donations to be paid directly to the manufacturer. To keep the administration load down we are looking for minimum amounts of $1000 (to cover 40 bottles i.e. potentially saving 40 lives).