July 6, 2009
For immediate release
OTTAWA - The Honourable Leona Aglukkaq, Minister of Health, announced today the approval of a new source of the medical isotope Iodine-131 (I-131) to treat thyroid cancer in Canada.
Health Canada has authorized Draximage of Montreal to supply I-131 from South Africa's Safari reactor to Canadian health care facilities. This decision comes after the Department determined that I-131 produced by the SAFARI reactor is safe and effective for use by Canadian health care providers. Production of I-131 in Canada was interrupted by the unplanned shutdown of the Chalk River National Research Universal reactor (NRU) in May 2009.
"This is good news for thyroid cancer patients in Canada and their health care providers," said Minister Aglukkaq.
"Our Government continues to find solutions to help address the current isotope shortage."
The Minister added that today's approval means that Draximage will continue to supply all of Canada's requirements for the I-131 isotopes. The company has advised that the transition to this new supply source will be seamless and immediate.
Since the shutdown of the Chalk River reactor, health care providers had been using Health Canada's Special Access Programme to access I-131 for patients. Today's approval of I-131 by Health Canada means that the isotope can be directly supplied to health care providers. Rapid approvals for alternate supplies of isotopes were a part of the regulatory tool kit put in place after the 2007 Chalk River shutdown.
Today's announcement is just one more element of the ongoing work the Government of Canada is doing to minimize the impact of the medical isotope shortage on Canadians.
Other measures undertaken by Health Canada include:
Other areas of focus include discussions led by the Honourable Lisa Raitt, Minister of Natural Resources, with reactor operators abroad to ramp up production and her appointment of an Expert Review Panel and launching a process to solicit ideas for the alternative production of the key medical isotopes, Molybdenum-99/Technetium-99m, over the medium and long term.
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Office of the Honourable Leona Aglukkaq
Federal Minister of Health