Medical Isotope Shortage Reaching Crisis Proportions

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Lynn Shapiro, Writer | June 13, 2009

Covidien spokesman Stephen Littlejohn says because the company's main source is the Netherlands's plant, Covidien is faring well.

"Because the Netherlands plant shutdown was previously planned, we had made prior arrangements with the other operating reactors in Belgium and South Africa. That will ameliorate the situation. But there will still be a global shortage because of the Canadian reactor being down," he says.

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Alternative Technologies

Isotopes can also be made from lowly enriched uranium, Dr. Graham points out. He says one plant that uses this technology is in Argentina and another in Australia. But currently, the U.S. has no regulatory approval to use the substance.

Coviden's Littejohn notes that the company is working with Babcock & Wilcox to develop a new technology based upon low-enriched uranium but commercialization will take a decade, he says.

Meanwhile, Covidien recommends using thallous chloride for use in cardiology scans.

Another alternative, only theoretical at this point, would be using cyclotrons to produce the medical isotopes. Triumph, a cyclotron research center in British Columbia, is developing this technology, Ontario Association of Nuclear Medicine's Dr. O'Brien says.

Read More About It

See these related DOTmed reports:

SNM President Robert Atcher Discusses Isotope Supply and Molecular Imaging

CMS Asks for Public Comment on PET Sodium Fluoride Reconsideration

New Alternatives for Bone Imaging Could Be on the Horizon

Serious Concerns as Isotope Shortage Looms

Canada Stops Medical Isotope Reactor Project

This report originally appeared June 10, 2009. Watch DOTmed News for coverage on this and other topics from the SNM meeting.

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