The Society of Nuclear Medicine and Molecular Imaging is warning providers to prep for an expected shortage of Mo-99 during the first half of November.
Its announcement follows the commencement this week of a planned 11-day shutdown of the Open Pool Australian Lightwater (OPAL) reactor for maintenance, as well as the ongoing suspension of activity at the NTP Radioisotopes facility in South Africa, which ceased production last November following the discovery of a suspected hydrogen leak.
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“With significant shortages anticipated, it is essential that users contact their generator/nuclear pharmacy providers for advice about their local situation,” said SNMMI in a statement. “The Association of Imaging Producers & Equipment Suppliers (AIPES) Emergency Response Team is closely following the situation. The group issued an update on October 30, and SNMMI will post updates as they become available.”
The shutdown of the OPAL reactor is the second this year in the land down to affect access to Mo-99 worldwide, the first being the suspension of Tc-99m generator production back in July due to a mechanical failure in a transfer conveyor. Production resumed a month later.
The lack of generators, where bulk Mo-99 exports are stored and decay into Tc-99m during transport to healthcare facilities, disrupted access to the radioisotope for nuclear medicine providers throughout Australia, the U.S. and other countries, subsequently delaying necessary exams for patients.
The shutdown over the last year of the NTP facility in Pelindaba, South Africa has also presented challenges, with the plant one of four Mo-99 processing facilities worldwide that extracts Mo-99 from uranium targets and purifies it for shipment to Tc-99 generator manufacturers. It currently provides 20 percent of global demand for Mo-99.
Despite a brief and temporary return to service in February, production issues once again placed and have kept the reactor offline.
“We remain eternally grateful to our customers in the United States, Europe, Japan, Middle East and South Africa who showed their unwavering support and wished us well,” Phumzile Tshelane, the CEO of the South African Nuclear Energy Corporation Group (Necsa), of which NTP Radioisotopes is a subsidiary, said back in February during its temporary recovery, according to a report by ESI Africa. “To all our stakeholders globally, who were affected, we thank you for your understanding and patience. Your empathy throughout this period is highly appreciated.”
In response, the Council on Radionuclides and Radiopharmaceutical has formally requested that the National Nuclear Regulator South Africa (NNR) resume production to support ongoing medical needs of patients in the U.S. and abroad.
This is a developing story and will be updated as more information becomes available.