WHO updates list of medicines governments should stockpile in case of a nuclear emergency

The World Health Organization released an updated report on Friday detailing medications that governments should have on hand in the event of a radiological or nuclear emergency

Governments should have a national stockpile of personal protective equipment, but also a range of pharmaceuticals, including potassium iodide tablets, antiemetics, anti-diarrhoeal agents, decorporating agents, alkylating agents, and other medications, WHO said. 

“It is essential that governments are prepared to protect the health of populations and respond immediately to emergencies,” Dr. Maria Neira, the Acting Assistant Director-General at WHO, said in a statement on Friday. “This includes having ready supplies of lifesaving medicines that will reduce risks and treat injuries from radiation.” 

Marcin Rossak, a local firefighter opens a box of iodine tablets in Milanowek Fire station, one of the distribution points, in Milanowek, Poland on October 10, 2022.
(Artur Widak/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

Radiological disasters can result from an accident at a nuclear power plant or the intentional detonation of a nuclear bomb in armed conflict. 

WHO did not name any specific conflict, but the threat of a radiological disaster has become clear worldwide over the past year amid Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. 


International Atomic Energy Agency Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi said this month said his agency is setting up a “continuous presence of nuclear safety and security experts” at Ukraine’s nuclear facilities to “help prevent a nuclear accident during the current military conflict.” 

Russian officials have also repeatedly reminded the world that it has weapons of mass destruction, with Putin ally Dmitry Medvedev, the Deputy chairman of Russia’s Security Council, saying last week that the “loss of a nuclear power in a conventional war can provoke the beginning of a nuclear war.”

A Russian serviceman patrols the territory of the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Station in Energodar on May 1, 2022. 

A Russian serviceman patrols the territory of the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Station in Energodar on May 1, 2022. 


WHO’s report on Friday updates a list from 2007, and the organization said more novel treatments could be on the way. 

“Research is making progress in developing novel treatments and achieving technical advances that may result in new products for use during a radiation emergency,” the report reads. 

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