Society of Nuclear Medicine issues Medical Isotope Communiqué

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NEW YORK (Reuters Health), Jun 16 - Monday, the Society of Nuclear Medicine (SNM), together in partnership with a variety of key stake holders, issued a Medical Isotope Communiqué, with the goal of solving the medical isotope crisis.

"We invite other stake holders to join us in a united front to collectively resolve to work aggressively to find a viable solution to the worldwide medical isotope shortage as quickly as possible," Dr. Robert W. Atcher, president of the Society of Nuclear Medicine, said at a press briefing at the society's annual meeting in Toronto.

"The patient community," Dr. Atcher said, "is facing one of its greatest threats in modern times -- the lack of access to a reliable consistent supply of the most important medical isotopes used in the effective detection and evaluation of patients with cancer, heart, and brain diseases as well as other disorders."

The Medical Isotope Communiqué calls on the U.S. Congress, Canadian Parliament, European Parliament, and all relevant legislative bodies around the world to appropriate the necessary funding to build new medical isotope facilities, as well as update existing facilities to ensure that they remain safe and reliable.

"The vast majority of molybdenum-99 is produced in nuclear facilities located in only five countries -- Belgium, Canada, France, South Africa, and the Netherlands," Dr. Atcher noted. "The average age of those reactors is 47 years old; it's clear that too many demands are being placed on too few facilities that are simply too old," he warned.

The communiqué also encourages lawmakers to "support the orderly transition from high-enriched uranium to low-enriched uranium for molybdenum production within the time frame that is sufficient to maintain an adequate supply of technetium-99m and to avoid an undue burden on the producers and our patients," Dr. Atcher said.

"We urge lawmakers to make research on the basic science of medical isotope production a top funding priority," he added.

The communiqué also calls on regulators who oversee nuclear issues -- energy, healthcare, medical devices, and pharmaceuticals -- to work in close collaboration with producers, scientists, physicians, and others to "ensure a clear pathway free of unreasonable bureaucratic obstacles so that a new and improved facility can become operational in a timely fashion," Dr. Atcher said.

"We ask the heads of state to demonstrate their commitment to true healthcare reform by acting decisively to support these efforts as appropriate to modernize medical isotope production facilities," he stated.

The communiqué asks builders and operators of nuclear facilities and the companies that produce and distribute medical isotopes to invest more in the future of their companies "by doing whatever it takes to provide our patients around the world with a stable predictable supply of medical isotopes," Dr. Atcher said.

These principles, he said, "are straight forward and indispensable. By acting together to fulfill these pledges in a spirit of public-private partnership, we are confident that we can lift the world out of this serious medical crisis and prevent such dangerous disruption to our supplies in the future."

By Megan Rauscher

Last Updated: 2009-06-15 16:14:45 -0400 (Reuters Health)

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