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Expert Panel: Forecast Future Demand for Medical Isotopes

The Expert Panel has concluded that the Department of Energy and National Institutes of Health must develop the capability to produce a diverse supply of radioisotopes for medical use in quantities sufficient to support research and clinical activities. Such a capability would prevent shortages of isotopes, reduce American dependence on foreign radionuclide sources and stimulate biomedical research. The expert panel recommends that the U.S. government build this capability around either a reactor, an accelerator or a combination of both technologies as long as isotopes for clinical and research applications can be supplied reliably, with diversity in adequate quantity and quality.

It has been demonstrated that the use of myocardial perfusion imaging in emergency department chest pain centers can reduce duration of stay (12 hours vs. 1.9 days) and reduce charges ($1832 per patient) compared to conventional evaluation (J Nucl Med 1997:38;131p). 18F-FDG PET has been studied for detecting and staging recurrent ovarian cancer. Potential savings were estimated at $8500 per patient with PET (J Nucl Med 1998:39;249p). Non-Small-Cell-Lung Cancer (NSCLC) can be staged with whole-body FDG PET "resulting in fewer invasive procedures and a savings-to-cost ratio of more than 2:1" (J Nucl Med 1998:39;80p). These examples illustrate that a lack of knowledge is very expensive. Nuclear medicine can offer improved patient care at reduced cost over conventional treatments. Though the cost of providing a reliable and diverse supply of isotopes for medical use may seem expensive, it will surely pay for itself in reduced patient care costs, improved treatment and improved quality of life for the millions patients that will take advantage of this technology.