Drugs to Treat Radiation Exposure

Unfortunately, the FDA is years away from approving pharmaceuticals that treat and prevent radiation sickness. Potassium iodine is currently the only available drug to help improve the prognosis for ingestion exposure to radioactive iodine in the air, food or beverages. However, if exposure is not significant, ingesting potassium iodine can do more harm than good.

The US Department of Defense’s Armed Forces Radiobiology Research Institute is quite interested in a drug that can be given to prevent the adverse effects of acute radiation exposure not only because it can given after nuclear attack or accidents, but it might also be used to treat patients with cancer after radiation therapy.

Currently, there is a drug used to treat cancer patient that stimulates bone marrow to make more white blood cells that may be useful for acute radiation exposure from attacks or accidents; however, it does not address the risk of excess bleeding which is a major cause of death after radiation exposure. There are several more drugs currently in development, but they will face many hurdles before they gain FDA approval regardless of the benefits, millions of dollars for research, and a fast-track status.  The crisis at the Fukushima power plant in Japan has shown us that we need to be more prepared, and hopefully, these new treatments will be developed before the next nuclear accident or attack.