Reps Markey, Upton respond to Bond's concerns on the isotope bill

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Edward J. Markey, D-Mass.
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Reps. Edward J. Markey, D-Mass., and Fred Upton, R-Mich., who co-authored H.R. 3276, the American Medical Production Act of 2009, which passed in the U.S. House of Representatives by a vote of 400-17, have sent a letter to Sen. Christopher S. "Kit" Bond, R-Mo., addressing his opposition to the act.

In his opposition to the bill, Bond has questioned, “from where sufficient domestic supplies of nuclear medicine would come if we banned the current international supply chain as H.R. 3276 proposes.”

In their letter, dated June 24, Markey and Upton responded: “However the U.S. currently only exports HEU [highly enriched uranium] to one reactor (NRU in Canada), which plans to cease isotope production in 2016." The representatives cited the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA), noting that the "existing and potential foreign production facilities that supply or intend to supply the U.S. either operate or intend to operate without HEU before the export ban would go into effect."

In a direct address to Bond's recent criticism, they wrote: "Contrary to your assertion, we do not anticipate any disruption to international medical isotope production due to the cessation of HEU exports by the U.S., a view shared by NNSA.”

Among his criticism, Bond has said that "the NNSA confirmed that currently announced or shortly expected plans to construct new nuclear medicine production facilities would still fall 25 percent short of U.S. patient needs when H.R. 3276’s supply cutoff went into effect.” Markey and Upton responded that "NNSA explicitly stated, 'H.R. 3276 does not represent a serious threat to the health and treatment of U.S. patients by ending HEU exports in seven to 13 years.' The seven to 13 year time frame is sufficient because Mo-99 production infrastructure will exist, producing enough Mo-99 to meet U.S. patient needs."

"In fact, the NNSA has asserted that they anticipate that "a group of domestic commercial producers will be able to produce over 100 percent of domestic needs of Mo-99 within the next five years, thus providing a continuous, reliable and sufficient supply during periods of individual facility maintenance or shutdown,” Markey and Upton wrote.

In response to Bond's claim that “NNSA believes that is already has, without H.R. 3276, the funding and authority it needs to move forward with a domestic supply promotion program,” Markey and Upton wrote that "the NNSA disagrees as is indicated in their testimony before both the House and Senate on this legislation."

"Without the authorization of funds as provided in H.R. 3276, U.S. doctors and patients will continue to live on the whim of aging foreign facilities instead of benefiting from an aggressive development of domestic production capability. We firmly believe that H.R.3276 is an investment that will pay dividends in the development of U.S.-based medical technology, the health of Americans and the security of our homeland," the representatives wrote.