Nuclear Medicine: An On-Demand & Safer Alternative for Conventional Radiation Imaging

The most advanced nuclear medicine manufacturing facility to complete its construction shortly. On the other hand, IAEA is taking initiatives for development in rural areas. 

Increasing number of cardiovascular diseases and cancer cases have enabled growing demand for nuclear medicines. They are alternative for X-rays and other radiation imaging devices and widely used in applications such as bone metastasis and lymphoma. Nuclear medicines, also known as radiopharmaceuticals, are radiating substances used in diagnosis and treatment of diseases and other conditions. For diagnostic purposes, a half-life of the radio nuclides used in radiopharmaceuticals is essential. They generally have half-lives of a few hours or a few minutes. New products with improved sensitivity have developed to get accurate results. 

Approximately 10% of the nuclear medicines is used for treatment of various diseases, majorly in pain relief for cancer patients. R&D activities in the pharmaceutical industry are focused on developing new radiopharmaceuticals that can be used in treatment of cancer. F-18, C-14, Ga-67, Tc-99, and I-123 are few nuclear medicines that are used in diagnostic procedures, whereas Ir-192, I-131, I-125, Y-90, Lu-177, and Ra-223 are used in therapeutics procedures. 

Manufacturing process of radio-labelled molecules is intricate and needs industry expertise to operate within safety constraints of a nuclear facility. In addition, a manufacturing plant must also comply with the Good Manufacturing Practice of the pharmaceutical industry and cling to the AsLowAsReasonablyAchiveable principle of the nuclear industry. These principles are put in place to protect the workers, the environment in facility, and the patient. Mallinckrodt plc., General Electric Co., Mayo Clinic, Bayer AG, Lantheus Medical Imaging Inc., Bracco Imaging S.p.A, NTP Radioisotopes SOC Ltd., and Medtronic plc. are some of the leading manufacturers operating in the market. 

A nuclear medicine plant nears its completion:
Sutherland Shire, the most advanced nuclear medicine manufacturing facility at Sydney will commence its operation shortly. The International medical community has kept a keen eye on the facility as construction is nearing its completion. The facility is located in the campus of the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organization (ANSTO), at Lucas Heights, Sydney. This facility will produce Molybdenum-99 (Mo-99) and ensure supplies meet growing demand across the world. The demand for Mo-99 is growing 40 million doses per year. Mo-99 is used in medical facilities to supply Tc-99m, which is used in the diagnosis of heart & lungs conditions and various types of cancers. 

Jayne Senior has been appointed as the General Manager of ANSTO Nuclear Medicine (ANM) Pvt Ltd, to supervise and track the progress of the project. “This is a very large, interesting, and challenging project that can potentially meet up to a quarter of the world’s demand of Molybdenum-99 (Mo-99),” said Senior. “We have three different arms of ANSTO working closely together to ensure ANM is delivered as quickly as possible, whilst achieving all the relevant compliance and regulatory milestones.” ANM is targeting to produce 10 million doses of nuclear medicine by the end of 2017. The organization also needs to ensure that the product is delivered to the destination with maximum radioactive activity as it is essential to conduct life-saving procedures. As per the report published by Allied Market Research, the Asia-Pacific will be the fastest growing market, registering a CAGR of 8.4%. 

Scenario of nuclear medicine market in Latin America and the Caribbean:
Cardiovascular diseases (CVDs) are causing more deaths than any other health conditions. About 50 percent of deaths in Latin America and the Caribbean are due to CVDs and cancer. Claudio Tinoco Mesquita, President of the Brazilian Society of Nuclear Medicine, emphasized on the fact that there should be at least double the number of nuclear medicine centers in Brazil to fulfill population needs. International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) is supporting them to provide access to nuclear medicine services. In Brazil, there are 39 nuclear medicine centers—33 are active, of which 29 centers conduct cardiovascular procedures.

“Early and accurate diagnosis is critical for effective treatment of both cardiovascular diseases and cancer,” said Diana Paez, Head of the Nuclear Medicine and Diagnostic Imaging Section at the IAEA. “Nuclear medicine provides essential diagnostic and therapeutic services that help doctors care for cardiac and cancer patients, and when diagnosed early, treatment can begin sooner, leading to improved patient outcomes.” Paez also stated that the access to nuclear medicine products and services in the Latin American and Caribbean region is limited and uneven, specifically in rural areas. This outlines the fact that there are tremendous growth opportunities in the region. Manufacturers can capitalize on opportunities by expanding their production facilities in these regions. Investors and shareholders can gain maximum returns on investment by investing in these regions. 

IAEA has taken an initiative in cooperation with the Peaceful Uses Initiative (PUI) to facilitate the development of nuclear medicine across the region. It includes training 600 professionals, conduct 500 expert missions for raising awareness among healthcare professionals, and offer support to purchase equipment. Luis Carlos Longoria Gandara, Director of the IAEA's Division for Latin America and the Caribbean said, "Assisting countries to improve their nuclear medicine services and to transfer innovative technologies to benefit patients is an important aspect of our development efforts in the region."

Drivers & Opportunities:
Increasing number of new cancer cases and growing adoption of SPECT and PET Scans is driving the nuclear medicine market. Moreover, preference for radiation therapy for cancer treatment and technological advancements in imaging technologies using radiopharmaceuticals supplement the growth. On the other hand, demand for non-invasive techniques, multilateral agreements between countries for efficient, and advances in neurological applications create new avenues in the industry. Changing lifestyle, increased levels of stress, and capability to identify various diseases earlier than other diagnostic tests are responsible for the increased use of radiopharmaceuticals. 

A report published on nuclear medicine industry discusses current trends and developments. As per the report, the nuclear medicine/radiopharmaceuticals market is estimated to garner $8,207 million by 2022. The report offers significant statistics on dominant market shares, detailed segmentation, SWOT analysis of key manufacturers, and changing market dynamics.

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