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Medical Treatments: Radioactive Materials

Volume 495: debated on Tuesday 7 July 2009

To ask the Secretary of State for Health what steps his Department is taking to secure an adequate supply of medical isotopes. (282473)

The radioisotope supply shortage is a worldwide problem. There are only five reactors worldwide, none of which are located within the United Kingdom, that produce molybdenum-99. Molybdenum-99 is the base material used by UK sites to produce technetium-99m which in turn is used for most nuclear medicine imaging procedures.

The Department is working with key stakeholders such as the Health Protection Agency (HPA), British Nuclear Medicine Society and national health service hospitals to find short and long-term solutions to the shortage. The NHS is embracing the adaptations needed to continue to provide patient care including, maximising activity to fit in with the supply of radioisotopes and undertaking alternative procedures where possible.

In addition, the Department is taking a number of proactive steps in securing adequate supply of medical isotopes both in the short and long-term.

The Department is communicating with the three suppliers of molybdenum-99 and technetium-99m to the UK market to ensure that we maximise patient access during this time of limited supply.

Through its work with the HPA, the Department has asked the Administration of Radioactive Substances Advisory Committee to provide the Department with advice on sustainable service delivery models for nuclear medicine examinations using different isotopes and scanning systems and provide advice on the future requirements for technetium-99m imaging to inform discussions on the longer term supply options.