Medical Radionuclide Production and Supply: Questions for the Future


K. L. Classic, T. L. Mays, R. J. Vetter


Since 1945, there has been substantial growth in the number of medical radionuclide applications, but today that growth may be impeded by decreases in radionuclide availability for new diagnostic and therapeutic applications. If growth occurs at the predicted rate of 15-20% per year, by the year 2000 medical institutions may perform more than 15 million radiopharmaceutical nuclear medicine procedures annually, and by 2020 annual revenues could be nearly $23 billion. However, reactor shut-downs and shrinking federal funds are contributing to a decreasing number of suppliers who provide radionuclides for medical use. Since the only commercial operator of a reactor that produced Tc-99m with the U.S. borders stopped production in 1989, strikes at Nordian's Canadian reactor demonstrate the uncertainty faced by medical institutions. Walk-outs at this reactor, the primary producer for U.S. medical use, can disrupt supply of three of the most used nuclear medicine radionuclides (Tc-99m, I-131, Xe-133) and threaten to interrupt tens of thousands of nuclear medicine procedures each day. These procedures include more than 10,000 heart scans, 10,000 bone scans, 7,500 lung scans, 5,000 kidney scans, 3,500 gastrointestinal scans, and several hundred cancer treatments. A scheduled permanent shut down of this Canadian reactor in the year 2000 has the potential to, within days, cause a serious shortage of the most used nuclear medicine radionuclide (Tc-99m).


This abstract was presented at the 32nd Annual Midyear Meeting, "Creation and Future Legacy of Stockpile Stewardship Isotope Production, Applications, and Consumption", Isotope Production, Applications, and Safety Session, 1/24/1999 - 1/27/1999, held in Albuquerque, NM.

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