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Article
August 1, 1990

The Radiotoxicology of Radithor: Analysis of an Early Case of latrogenic Poisoning by a Radioactive Patent Medicine

Author Affiliations

From the Joint Center for Radiation Therapy and Department of Radiation Therapy, Harvard Medical School, Boston, Mass.

From the Joint Center for Radiation Therapy and Department of Radiation Therapy, Harvard Medical School, Boston, Mass.

JAMA. 1990;264(5):619-621. doi:10.1001/jama.1990.03450050077032
Abstract

Radithor was a radioactive patent medicine that was touted as a metabolic stimulant and aphrodisiac. We have obtained several original samples of Radithor and have used these historical specimens and a computer-based calculation model to perform a retrospective analysis of a famous case of Radithorrelated radium poisoning. Our data suggest that the victim's cumulative skeletal radiation dose may have exceeded 350 Sv by the time he died. This figure far exceeds most current estimates of what radiation exposure level would constitute a rapidly lethal dose if given acutely. The physiological response to long-term internal radiation exposure and the highly localized nature of alpha particle irradiation may require the development of new models for the assessment of risk in cases of internal alpha particle irradiation.

(JAMA. 1990;264:619-621)

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