Nuclear medicine and radio-pharmaceuticals essential in medical applications – supply must meet demand

“There are times in our lives when we come to realize that there is nothing more important than our health. This also includes the health of our loved ones, colleagues, neighbours and fellow Canadians. And we are dependent on modern health care when faced with some of the most difficult circumstances and health challenges,” says James Scongack, Chair of the Canadian Nuclear Isotope Council.

For more than half a century, Canada has been a world leader in the production, distribution and development of medical isotopes.

These isotopes are, essentially, the energy used in modern health care to ensure medical equipment is clean and safe for use, and to diagnose and treat cancer.

But looking ahead we can, must and will do more to ensure an adequate supply.

That’s why the Canadian Nuclear Isotope Council — a not-for-profit organization representing more than 75 organizations across Canada — launched its “Isotopes for Hope” campaign: to advocate, enable and support solutions meant to double Canada’s isotope production by 2030 and further expand multiple opportunities.

To achieve this, we will need to further integrate all levels of government, regulators and the private sector across Canada to ensure we have the agility and focus to realize this once-in-a-generation opportunity.

The COVID-19 pandemic worsened pre-existing fractures in the global health-care system, leading to overloaded hospitals and procedural backlogs. For patients, a delayed test or postponed procedure can significantly impact their prognosis. Our health-care system must be equipped with the necessary tools to rapidly connect patients with life-saving procedures.

Nuclear medicine and radio-pharmaceuticals are used in various medical applications: from diagnostic imaging scans to quickly assess diseases; to treating illnesses such as cancer by providing a precise, targeted dose of radiation directly to a tumour; to sterilizing devices such as masks, gloves, syringes and implantable devices.

Traditional cancer treatments require multiple hospital visits, longer stays and lengthy recoveries. Existing and enhanced treatments using medical isotopes provide non-invasive, often more effective, treatment options that entail shorter treatment durations and fewer hospital visits overall. This can help alleviate strain, free up bed space, and ensure fewer return visits.

For these reasons, the demand for nuclear isotopes is expected to double by 2030.

Canada  is uniquely placed, with our existing infrastructure and capabilities, to continue to play a leading role in a world hungry for modern health-care solutions.

The world is counting on Canada now more than ever. It’s time to come together with a national focus to deliver on this promise.