MDS Nordion shut down until January, SPECT studies in jeopardy

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Dec. 6 — After Wednesday's extension from the Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd. (AECL), MDS Nordion will most likely be unable to supply medical isotopes to its customers until January 2008, leaving hundreds of thousands of medical tests for cancer diagnoses in limbo.

AECL, owner and operator of the reactor, has advised Nordion that an extension of the maintenance shutdown at the National Research Universal reactor will be required to complete its upgrade of the electrical back-up system to address a regulatory issue. The Ottawa-based Nordion reactor was initially shut down on Nov. 18.

According to the Toronto Star, the “reactor currently supplies about two-thirds of the multibillion-dollar medical isotopes market. When injected into patients the isotopes allow medical imaging equipment to track the spread of cancers within the body.”

Nordion said that it is concerned with the impact that AECL's supply disruption is having on customers and patients. The company also said it is “working closely with its back-up supply network to mitigate the impact.”

“There is only one reactor in the North American continent that actually supplies most of these agents,” Christopher O'Brien, MD, president of the Ontario Association of Nuclear Medicine, told the Toronto Star. “When this reactor goes down there is a significant impact.”

“For every month of disrupted supply, about 10,000 Ontario patients – 90,000 across Canada – are affected,” O’Brien said to the Toronto Star. “Some patients have alternatives, such as MRIs, but that means lengthy waiting lists grow longer for everyone.”

Based on the extension from the AECL, Nordion said the financial impact of the extended interruption is currently expected to reduce its adjusted earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization by $8 to $9 million U.S. for the first quarter of 2008.