Russian President Vladimir Putin has repeatedly signaled that he could resort to using nuclear weapons to protect the country’s territory gains in Ukraine.
President Joe Biden has also warned that the world is at risk of a nuclear “Armageddon” amid the war in Ukraine.
“We have not faced the prospect of Armageddon since Kennedy and the Cuban Missile Crisis,” he said on Oct. 6.
People on social media have since claimed that the U.S. is spending hundreds of millions of dollars to purchase an “anti-radiation” drug in preparation for a potential nuclear attack.
A VERIFY reader in Texas reached out to the team to ask whether the claims shared on social media are true. Google search data also show people are asking whether the U.S. is buying a radiation sickness drug.
Is the U.S. government buying a drug to treat the effects of radiation sickness?
Yes, the U.S. government is buying a drug that can be used to treat the effects of radiation sickness.
WHAT WE FOUND
The U.S. government is spending $290 million to purchase a supply of a drug that can be used to treat red blood cell injuries from radiation sickness, the Department of Health and Human Services announced on Oct. 4.
Nuclear weapons produce radiation, exposure to which can lead to death or illness, including long-term adverse health effects such as cancer.
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Acute radiation syndrome, also known as radiation sickness, occurs when a person’s entire body, or most of it, is exposed to a high dose of penetrating radiation that reaches their internal organs in a very short period of time. It can reduce the amount of clot-forming platelets in the blood, which can lead to uncontrolled and life-threatening bleeding.
Nplate, a drug manufactured by Amgen USA Inc., was first approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 2008 for long-term treatment of an autoimmune disease that can cause excessive bleeding.
In January 2021, the FDA approved Nplate for treating injuries caused by radiation sickness in adults and children, including newborns.
The federal government is purchasing the supply of Nplate with funding from Project BioShield, which was established by a law signed in July 2004. Project BioShield funding is “used to address national security threats as identified by the Department of Homeland Security’s Material Threat Determination process,” according to HHS.
Products can be purchased under Project BioShield if they are licensed, approved or cleared by the FDA, or if they may be made available under an emergency use authorization (EUA) during a public health emergency.
While HHS did not respond to a question about whether Russia’s war in Ukraine prompted the purchase of the radiation sickness drug, the agency said it is part of its “long-standing, ongoing efforts to be better prepared to save lives following radiological and nuclear emergencies.”
This is the first time Amgen has supplied Nplate to the federal government, a spokesperson for the company told VERIFY.
Amgen will maintain the government’s supply of Nplate, which HHS says decreases cost for taxpayers and allows the drug to be rotated into the commercial market for use before it expires.
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