US suppliers to join the Mo-99 market, high-energy materials gaining traction
June 12, 2019 12:00
By Leah Gannon

Last year’s announced shutdown of two international research nuclear reactors, utilized to create the products necessary for SPECT imaging, again revealed the weakness of the radiopharmaceutical supply chain. The American market relies on these reactors to produce a radioisotope called molybdenum-99 (Mo-99), which is then is eluted in nuclear pharmacies to make its daughter isotope, technetium-99 (TC-99). TC-99 is the main radioactive material used in 80 percent of nuclear imaging tests, including SPECT (single photon emission computed tomography). When maintenance or unexpected reactor issues disrupt the delivery of this product, the effect is felt immediately.
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Shaking confidence even more, The New York Times reported last year that nervous pilots had refused to fly with the radioactive materials onboard. The lack of essential, raw radioactive materials to prepare radiopharmaceutical doses hinders the ability of providers to perform unique diagnostic functions and therapeutic treatment of cardiovascular, neurologic and oncologic disease, which puts patients at risk.
While the ongoing supply chain fragility of Mo-99 is cause for concern, there is reason to be cautiously optimistic about the longer term availability of these “low energy” radioactive materials. New domestic sources are emerging that will increase the ability to acquire radioactive isotopes. Additionally, there is a lot of market buzz about the expansion of positron emissions tomography (PET) imaging, which utilizes “high energy” radioactive materials.

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