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Canada Minister Welcomes Report On Medical Isotopes Shortage

Ruzanna Harutyunyan's picture

The Honourable Tony Clement, Minister of Health, welcomed the report of an ad hoc advisory group of health specialists that has been looking at ways to minimize potential future disruptions of medical imaging services related to the isotope supply.

The group of health specialists, including experts from the field of nuclear medicine, was convened by Health Canada in December 2007 during the prolonged shutdown of the National Research Universal nuclear reactor at Chalk River. The group provided valuable information to the Minister and the Department on the health care impacts of the resulting isotope shortage. Once the reactor was restarted and the supply of medical isotopes returned to normal, the group began work on lessons learned from the situation.

"These experts are all extremely busy people who volunteered their time during the isotope shortage and have continued to work with Health Canada officials. I want to thank them for their dedication to protecting the health and safety of Canadians," said Minister Clement. "The paper they have produced identifies a number of key issues and provides valuable insight from the perspective of the medical community on how to mitigate impacts on the health care system should future isotope shortages occur."

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"Our primary concern is patient care. It is from this perspective that we wrote our report and made our recommendations," said Dr. Douglas Abrams, President of the Canadian Society of Nuclear Medicine and co-spokesperson for the ad hoc health experts working group. The working group recommended that the federal government and other key players minimize the potential for future shortages, mitigate patient care consequences should shortages occur, and establish a nationwide plan to co-ordinate the supply, distribution and management of medical isotopes.

"An interruption in supply of medical isotopes affects the health of Canadians. It is essential that all parties involved work expeditiously together to support efforts to develop and implement short-term mitigation measures and secure long-term supply," added the working group's other co-spokesperson, Dr. Jean-Luc Urbain, President of the Canadian Association of Nuclear Medicine.

Minister Clement noted that the Government has already taken action to address some of the recommendations made by the group. For example, a new communication protocol has been developed by Health Canada, Natural Resources Canada and Atomic Energy Canada Limited to ensure the rapid dissemination of information about future shutdowns of the Chalk River reactor.

The paper notes that the supply system for medical isotopes is complex, and the panel's recommendations go beyond areas solely under federal jurisdiction to suggest actions that could be taken by the many different players involved. The report is one of many reviews currently underway related to the reactor shutdown and the isotope supply. Minister Clement said the Government will consider all these perspectives as it moves forward on this issue.