Iodine has been used in the treatment of thyroid diseases, chronic bronchitis and other diseases. But in Japan, its use as protection from radiation exposure has still not been approved and this will cause further delay in its distribution to residents near nuclear plants.
The Nuclear Regulation Authority has included the distribution of iodine in its preventative measures, but since they have not been able to obtain yet the approval from the Pharmaceutical Affairs Law, the local governments still cannot distribute the drug or even include it in their regional disaster management plans that are due for submission by March 2013. This will also add to the delay in restarting of the idle nuclear plants, since one condition for the approval of the restarting is that there is more than adequate protection for residents living in the area.
The protective effects of potassium iodide has been recognized internationally, as seen after the Chernobyl nuclear accident in the former Soviet Union. But in Japan, it has been very rarely used before the Fukushima nuclear meltdown in 2011. No pharmaceutical company has filed for approval of the drug for nuclear radiation protection. As such, victims cannot claim compensation from the state if they experience side effects from the drugs.
The NRA will hold consultations with the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry officials to obtain additional legal approval to be able to provide the drug in advance to residents within a five-mile radius of a nuclear plant, which may be expanded later on.