The U.S. healthcare industry is warning that the COVID-19 pandemic may threaten supplies of the medical radioisotope molybdenum-99, whose decay product, technetium-99m, is considered the workhorse isotope in nuclear medicine for diagnostic imaging. The online magazine Radiology Business recently reported that the American Society of Nuclear Cardiology (ASNC) alerted its members on April 1 that it is monitoring supply shortages of Mo-99 “more closely than ever” during the pandemic.
Supply chain disruptions: The ASNC alert followed a March 30 communication by a Nuclear Medicine Europe (NMEu) emergency response team informing its members that the cancellation of international flights had interrupted bulk shipments of Mo-99 from South Africa during the prior week. NMEu, a European industry association, said that a number of options are being investigated in order to resume shipments from South Africa.
On a positive note, NMEu said that it received word that the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organization (ANSTO) has received regulatory approval to resume Mo-99 export production. ANSTO, however, indicated that it will require a gradual transition from its current two production runs per week, also taking into account measures put into place to protect staff and to ensure production during the pandemic.
Other Mo-99 production facilities in Belgium (the BR2 reactor), the Netherlands (the High Flux Reactor), Poland (the Maria reactor), and the Czech Republic (the LVR-15 reactor) reported that they have been able to maintain operations while protecting personnel from the coronavirus, the NMEu said.
What is being done: According to the Radiology Business report, ASNC leaders said that they are monitoring recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organization and are remaining in close contact with industry partners regarding the potential for travel bans to further disrupt Mo-99 deliveries. ASNC said that it is exploring options such as charter flights for delivering Mo-99 shipments.
The Society of Nuclear Medicine and Molecular Imaging also issued a warning to its members on March 31 regarding potential disruptions to the Mo-99 supply chain.