- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 10, 2005

A simple vitamin pill soon may be part of the American military arsenal.

The Defense Department has joined forces with Humanetics, a Minneapolis-based nutritional-supplement manufacturer, to refine an over-the-counter, anti-radiation pill that may be ready by year’s end, one source said Tuesday.

Described as a “radioprotective drug,” the mystery pill is meant to be a practical, cheap antidote for millions in the event of nuclear attack.

“The chances of military or civilian personnel being exposed to dirty bombs or improvised nuclear devices have risen dramatically,” said Mark H. Whitnall, director of the Radiation Casualty Management Team at the Armed Forces Radiobiology Research Institute in Bethesda.

In the past, radiation victims have been treated with substances that bind to radioactive materials so they can pass safely out of the body — “potassium iodide, Prussian blue, calcium DTPA and zinc DTPA,” Mr. Whitnall said.

“Humanetics has a portfolio of four nutritional supplements which have shown beneficial effects on the immune system, and in some cases, have shown promise as anti-radiation drugs in preclinical research,” he said.

“These drugs can also be developed as injectable prescription drugs. Because of their proven low toxicity, low cost and stability at environmental temperatures, these agents are attractive as candidates for stockpiling for military or civilian use,” Mr. Whitnall said. “Two of these compounds are already available for sale as dietary supplements.”

He did not identify the compounds.

Eager entrepreneurs already offer so-called anti-radiation preparations. Nuke Protect and Rad Block are marketed right alongside the bee pollen and super-vitamins familiar to fans of alternative medicine.

Nuke Protect consists primarily of potassium iodide, recommended by the Department of Homeland Security, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and other federal agencies as a “blocking agent” to protect the human thyroid gland, which rapidly absorbs ionized radiation.

Nuke Protect also contains selenium yeast, spice extracts and “wild Pacific kelp,” according to Smart Bomb, an online herbs and supplements seller.

This is not a new phenomenon. Various researchers have touted dark-green vegetables, bone meal, pectin, sunflower seeds and vitamins C and B-6 as anti-radiation “protective foods and supplements” since the 1970s.

“There are different types of radiation depending on whether it’s a nuclear bomb, power-plant accident, a dirty bomb,” said Troy Jones, president of North Carolina-based Nuke Pills, which distributes three FDA-approved potassium iodide supplements.

“But I am not aware of any supplement which could counter all the effects. But more power to the new research. America needs to address these things,” Mr. Jones said, adding that his sales remain brisk.

“But if this is a dietary supplement rather than a drug and the FDA is not involved here, I am not comfortable. Is the preparation safe for the public? That’s my main consideration,” he said.

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