Covidien says Dutch isotope reactor running again


CHICAGO (Reuters), Aug 21 - A nuclear reactor in the Netherlands that supplies medical isotopes is back up after scheduled maintenance, promising to ease a global shortage of the material used in scores of diagnostic imaging tests.

Covidien expects to begin receiving material from the reactor in Petten this weekend, the company said in a letter to hospital clients dated August 18 and posted on the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Web site on Thursday.

Covidien, which gets most of its isotopes from the reactor, processes the raw material known as molybdenum-99, or Mo-99, into generators, specially packaged capsules used to mix the isotopes with solutions for imaging procedures done for cancer, heart disease, and a host of other ills.

A medical isotope is a small quantity of radioactive material used to perform nuclear medicine imaging tests. Isotopes are mixed with different solutions and injected into patients, where they emit energy that special cameras read.

Only five nuclear reactors in the world produce Mo-99. Molybdenum-99 has a shelf life of just 67 hours, making it impossible to stockpile.

Last May, Canadian health officials closed a nuclear reactor that produces a third of the world's Mo-99 supply, sending medical isotope makers scrambling to find new suppliers.

That shortage was exacerbated last month when the Dutch reactor went offline for maintenance.

Covidien said the Petten reactor's return increases the availability of Mo-99, but said the further extension of the Canadian reactor shutdown "remains a concern."

Earlier this month, Atomic Energy of Canada said repairs to the reactor will extend to the first quarter of 2010.

Covidien and privately held Lantheus Medical Imaging of North Billerica, MA, are the two major U.S. suppliers. They supply medical isotopes to Cardinal Health, which runs nearly 160 nuclear pharmacies that use the generators to process the isotopes into injectable form.

Covidien said the worldwide shortage affects the entire supply chain, from reactors to doctors and patients.

By Julie Steenhuysen

Related Reading

Petten reactor back online, August 18, 2009

Moly crisis to continue as AECL pushes reactor restart to 2010, August 13, 2009

MDS offers plan to fix Maple reactors July 31, 2009

Petten reactor set for July 18 shutdown, July 10, 2009

AECL: Chalk River will not be online before late 2009, July 9, 2009

Copyright © 2009 Reuters Limited. All rights reserved. Republication or redistribution of Reuters content, including by framing or similar means, is expressly prohibited without the prior written consent of Reuters. Reuters shall not be liable for any errors or delays in the content, or for any actions taken in reliance thereon. Reuters and the Reuters sphere logo are registered trademarks and trademarks of the Reuters group of companies around the world.

Page 1 of 1235
Next Page