Democratic News

Contacts:               Rosemarie Calabro (Bingaman), 202.224.5039

                                Megan Hermann (Murkowski), 202.224.7875

Last night, the Senate passed S. 99, the American Medical Isotopes Production Act of 2011.  This bipartisan bill, with Senators Bingaman and Murkowski as original co-sponsors, was reported unanimously by the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources last April.

 

Senator Bingaman: “Millions of Americans each year depend on medical isotopes for scanning and imaging essential to the diagnosis of heart and brain function and cancer detection.  This important, bipartisan bill will ensure a stable and continuing supply of these essential radiopharmaceuticals.”

 

Senator Murkowski: “The isotope shortages that the medical community and patients experienced in 2009 and 2010 certainly brought attention to this important issue. While imports, at the moment, are meeting our growing demand, the stability and long-term viability of that supply remains in question. Developing our own reliable supply of nuclear medical isotopes will ensure that we can continue to provide the highest standard of medical care.”

 

The purpose of the legislation is to develop a reliable domestic supply of molybdenum-99, the parent isotope for technetium-99m.  Each year, eighteen million, or 85 percent, of the procedures that use medical isotopes for diagnostic scanning and imaging in the United States require the use of this isotope.  We currently have no domestic supply of this isotope and must rely on aging reactors in Canada and Europe to produce it.  For the first time, the reactors in Canada and Europe were shut down for maintenance in 2010, which resulted in the suspension of thousands of medical imaging procedures.  The bill will correct this problem by allowing the Department of Energy to work with U.S. companies to produce a reliable domestic supply of molybdenum-99 in order to avoid a future shortage.

 

This bill also proposes a 14-year phase out of exporting of highly enriched uranium, which is used to produce these isotopes.  The technology exists to produce molybdenum-99 from low enriched uranium – South Africa and Australia are currently doing so.   This bill allows the Department of Energy to enter into cooperative agreements, and for U.S. companies to do so as well.

 

S. 99, as amended, passed the Senate by unanimous consent on Thursday, November 17, 2011.

 

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