New Senate bill advocates for domestic isotope production

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Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.), chair of the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, and Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Ark.) have introduced the American Medical Isotopes Production Act of 2011 (S 99), which aims to promote sustainable, domestic production of the medical isotope molybdenum-99 (Mo-99).

The American Medical Isotopes Production Act of 2011 seeks to establish a technology-neutral program to support the production of Mo-99 for medical uses in the U.S. by non-federal entities. The bill also calls for the U.S. to condition and phase out the export of highly enriched uranium for the production of medical isotopes over a period of seven years.

In 2009, a similar bill, the American Medical Isotope Production Act (HR 3276) passed in the U.S. House of Representatives by a vote of 400-17, but was held up in the Senate by Sen. Christopher S. "Kit" Bond, (R-Mo.), much to the dismay of the nuclear medicine community.

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 that are dedicated to the production of Mo-99 for medical uses. These aging foreign reactors regularly experience significant ongoing maintenance issues—frequently causing these reactors to go offline. In 2009 and 2010, the U.S. experienced a shortage of Mo-99, which led to the disruption or delay of nuclear medicine procedures for an estimated 50,000 patients each day.

Last week, Parrish Staples, director of European and African Threat Reduction of the National Nuclear Security Administration, supported the passage of S 99 during congressional testimony.

SNM will join with the Council on Radionuclides and Radiopharmaceuticals and other medical groups to support the passage of S 99. A bill is expected to be introduced in the House of Representatives in coming weeks.

"Sens. Bingaman and Murkowski have long been champions of nuclear science and, in particular, nuclear medicine," said Dominique Delbeke, MD, PhD, SNM president. "We appreciate their support and look forward to working with them to advance the bill through the Senate in this congressional session."