Paris, 16 December 2009

Securing vital supplies of medical radioisotopes

The Nuclear Energy Agency (NEA) High-level Group on the Security of Supply of Medical Radioisotopes (HLG-MR), chaired by Serge Dupont, Deputy Minister in the Government of Canada, has just concluded its second meeting in Paris, France.

At the meeting, HLG-MR members pursued actions to raise awareness of the need for global actions to improve coordination, secure supply, increase transparency and optimise the use of available supplies. The group continues to make key contributions to enhancing knowledge of the factors underlying medical isotope supply and demand.

The HLG-MR welcomed the actions taken by the Association of Imaging Producers and Equipment Suppliers (AIPES) to coordinate reactor schedules and to implement in 2010 protocols for proactively sharing information on Molybdenum-99 (Mo-99) supply. The coordination efforts of the AIPES and reactor operators have resulted in the decision to add an additional Mo-99 production cycle at the BR2 reactor in Belgium in 2010 and the rescheduling of the refurbishment of the OSIRIS reactor in France to later that same year. These changes will best mitigate the shortages of Mo-99 supply in 2010. The efforts of existing producers which have substantially increased production over the past seven months to meet demand were recognised, as were those of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in assessing capabilities in potential new producer countries. Reactor operators, processors and generator manufacturers were acknowledged for their positive actions in providing information through the supply chain to the medical community. The HLG-MR also welcomed initiatives to address regional imbalances in Mo-99 supply, notably the Asia-Oceania network system.

HLG-MR members stressed the importance of the NEA’s ongoing study on the economics of isotope supply. This study will play a key role in guiding policy actions required to establish an appropriate environment for encouraging the necessary investment in medical radioisotope production to ensure reliable supply.

In discussion with representatives of the industry and the nuclear medicine community, participants agreed that:

  • the ongoing efforts of the AIPES and the industry to coordinate reactor outage schedules, to exchange information, and to keep the health community informed were important and would be further developed;

  • they would share existing guidelines with the global health community on the efficient use of available supplies of Molybdenum 99 (Mo-99) and Technetium 99m (Tc-99m);

  • additional work would be undertaken with appropriate institutions, including national authorities and the IAEA, to surmount the challenges of developing additional supplies and related infrastructure; and

  • they would continue their various efforts to secure reliable capacity in the near, mid- and long term.

In addition, the HLG-MR will continue its work on examining the economics of the Mo-99 supply chain, regulatory impacts, transport difficulties and opportunities for securing Mo-99 production. The Group will also start work to assess issues related to processing capacity and future demand for Tc-99m.

Background

Over the last few years, there have been a number of supply shortages of Molybdenum-99 (Mo-99) and its decay product Technetium-99m (Tc-99m), the most widely used medical radioisotope, most recently due to the unexpected, extended shutdown of Canada’s research reactor which produces approximately 35% of world Mo-99 supply. These isotopes are used in medical diagnostic imaging techniques which enable precise and accurate, early detection and management of diseases such as heart conditions and cancer, and may significantly impact medical decisions. Disruptions in the supply chain of these medical isotopes can interrupt the availability of important medical testing for the millions of people who benefit from them worldwide every year.

The need for a high-level group was identified at a workshop on the security of supply of medical radioisotopes hosted by the NEA in January 2009, and the HLG-MR was subsequently created in April to oversee and assist, where necessary, efforts of the international community to address the challenges of medical isotope supply reliability. The second meeting in Paris brought together the members of the HLG-MR, which include representatives from the governments of Australia, Belgium, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Korea, the Netherlands, South Africa and the United States, as well as from the European Commission and the International Atomic Energy Agency. Regulators and delegates from the medical isotope industry and the nuclear medicine community also took part.

For more information, please visit the NEA website: www.oecd-nea.org/html/ndd/med-radio/

 

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Further information

High-level Group on the Security of Supply of Medical Radioisotopes (HLG-MR)

NEA press room

 

News media contact:

Ms. Cynthia Gannon-Picot
Head, External Relations and Public Affairs
OECD Nuclear Energy Agency (NEA)
Tel.: +33 (0)1 45 24 10 10, Fax: +33 (0)1 45 24 11 10
E-mail:
Website: www.oecd-nea.org

 

 
NEA membership consists of 30 OECD countries. The mission of the NEA is to assist its member countries in maintaining and further developing, through international co-operation, the scientific, technological and legal bases required for a safe, environmentally friendly and economical use of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes. It provides authoritative assessments and forges common understandings on key issues, as input to government decisions on nuclear energy policy and to broader OECD policy analyses in areas such as energy and sustainable development. The information, data and analyses it provides draw on one of the best international networks of technical experts.