Medical isotope bill breezes through House

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Image source: Texas Cancer Center in Houston.

The U.S. House of Representatives has passed HR 3276—the American Medical Isotopes Production Act of 2009—by a roll call vote of 400-17. The legislation will help to fund projects for producing the medical isotope molybdenum-99 (Mo-99) within the United States.

The House Energy and Commerce Committee approved HR 3276—initially introduced by Rep. Edward J. Markey, D–Mass., in July—on Oct. 21, with a few markups. Amendments made to the bill included byproducts of Mo-99 production—iodine-131 and xenon-133—also being utilized.

Under the bill, the Department of Energy will be allotted $163 million toward the effort over the course of five years, and will be required to issue annual reports on the progress of Mo-99 production for the first six years after the bill becomes law. Additionally, the bill will end the export of U.S. highly enriched uranium in seven to 10 years.

Technetium-99m—the decay product of Mo-99—is used in more than 16 million diagnostic medical tests annually in the U.S. for the detection and management of cancer, heart disease, thyroid disease and other conditions.

There are currently only six foreign producers of Mo-99 approved by the FDA to import the product into the U.S.—and no domestic facilities exist which are dedicated to the production of Mo-99 for medical uses. These aging foreign reactors regularly experience significant ongoing maintenance issues—frequently causing the reactors to go off-line. These continuing problems were exacerbated with reactors shutting down in Canada and the Netherlands earlier this year. Subsequently, the Canadian government announced that it will no longer produce medical isotopes as of 2016.

“The worldwide isotope shortage has long been adversely affecting patients in the U.S.,” said Michael M. Graham, PhD, MD, president of SNM (formerly the Society of Nuclear Medicine). “This important legislation will bring us one step closer to solving this chronic problem.”