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PRESS RELEASE - British Nuclear Medicine Society statement on leaving Euratom

Press Statement on Euratom and supply of medical isotopes following Brexit from the British Nuclear Medicine Society, supported by the Royal College of Radiologists and Royal College of Physicians

On Wednesday 12 July there was a parliamentary debate on the implications for the UK on withdrawing from the Euratom Treaty. Since 1957 the Euratom framework has enshrined the regulation and safeguards for the transportation and use of radioactive materials and governs UK international nuclear cooperation agreements with European and third party countries, including Canada, Japan and the USA. Withdrawing from Euratom will affect the arrangements for the supply and use of radioactive isotopes to industry, power generation, academia and medicine.

Clinical nuclear medicine services in the UK undertake an important range of diagnostic and therapeutic procedures in an estimated 1 million people in the UK each year with a wide range of medical conditions. Since the UK does not produce any of the longer-lived medical radioisotopes, the majority of materials have to be imported into the country. PET scanning in the UK which relies on regional cyclotron production of the short lived radioisotope F-18 will not be affected in the same way, however Tc-99m which is used for over 80% of the diagnostic nuclear medicine scans carried out including bone, cardiac, lung and kidney scans and for sentinel node surgical procedures in patients with breast and other cancers such as melanoma would be affected. There are also a number of other medical radioisotopes that the UK imports including I-131, which is used for the treatment of thyroid cancer, Ra-223 used in the treatment of bone tumours and Lu-177 that is used for the treatment of neuroendocrine tumours. Some radioisotopes used in radiotherapy implants will also be affected. There may also be implications for patients crossing the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland if they have received radioisotopes for diagnosis or therapy on the other side of the border from their homes.

Although we do not produce Mo-99 (used for producing Tc-99) in the UK we do have a major manufacturing plant supplying medical Mo-99/Tc-99m generators throughout the world. If appropriate agreements and cross border transport arrangements are not put into place post BREXIT this would have impact on the management of patients both in the UK and in many other countries who depend on the supply of these essential medical supplies. 

The BNMS has carried out extensive work on the future supply of medical radioisotopes in the UK [1]. We share the view of the RCR that leaving Euratom will impact on the supply and cost of medical radioisotopes and would like to see greater clarity regarding the future arrangements. We are working with NHS England on the security of the future supply chain for medical radioisotopes to UK hospitals.

Any confusion regarding the regulatory aspects related to safe provision and transport of radioactive medicinal products between Great Britain and Europe should be dispelled as soon as possible.

We intend to organise a meeting with all relevant stakeholders including government, industry, professional medical societies and medical royal colleges in the coming few days

  1. Future Supply of Medical Radioisotopes for the UK, British Nuclear Medicine Society and the Science and Technology Facilities Council, 2014