FTC Warns Consumers About Scam Artists Pitch for Potassium Iodide Treatment

Tips for Consumers

Recent reports of events in Japan are causing scam artists to try to convince consumers that they need potassium iodide pills and drops to protect themselves.  Potassium iodide, or KI, can help prevent thyroid cancer, which is one of the biggest risks from contamination with radioactive iodine.  However, public health experts agree that U.S. residents should not buy or take potassium iodide unless specifically notified or instructed by public health officials.
 
The Federal Trade Commission, the nation’s consumer protection agency, cautions that fraudsters follow the headlines, tailoring their offers to prey on current consumer fears and vulnerabilities.  The FTC, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the Food and Drug Administration, urge consumers to:

  • Consult their doctors before they buy:   Some people are allergic to iodine and shouldn't take potassium iodide.  (A seafood or shellfish allergy doesn't necessarily mean that you are allergic to iodine.)  If you are unsure about this, consult your doctor.  People with certain skin conditions (for example, dermatitis herpetiformis or hypocomplementemic vasculitis), as well as people with nodular thyroid with heart disease, should not take KI.
  • Understand that taking potassium iodide cannot:
    • prevent radioactive iodine from entering the body.  It can protect the thyroid, but not other parts of the body, from radioactive iodine.
    • reverse the health effects caused by radioactive iodine once damage to the thyroid has occurred.
    • protect the body from radioactive elements other than radioactive iodine.  If radioactive iodine is not present, taking potassium iodide will not help.
  • If you decide to buy potassium iodide, buy it only from a reputable source.  Iosat, ThyroSafe, and ThyroShield are the only potassium iodide products that are FDA-approved and can be legally marketed and sold in the United States.
    For more information on these products, contact:
  • Follow dosing instructions carefully.  More is not better:  Taking a higher dose of potassium iodide – or taking it more often than recommended – doesn’t offer any additional protection; in fact, it can cause severe illness – even death.

The FTC works to prevent fraudulent, deceptive and unfair business practices in the marketplace and to provide information to help consumers spot, stop, and avoid them. To file a complaint or get free information on consumer issues, visit ftc.gov or call toll-free, 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357); TTY: 1-866-653-4261. Watch a new video, How to File a Complaint, at ftc.gov/video to learn more. The FTC enters consumer complaints into the Consumer Sentinel Network, a secure online database and investigative tool used by more than 1,800 civil and criminal law enforcement agencies in the U.S. and abroad.

Contact Information

MEDIA CONTACT:
Office of Public Affairs
202-326-2180