Global shortage of medical isotopes getting worse

Someday, the U.S. may produce the isotopes needed to conduct certain diagnostic tests for heart disease and cancer domestically. But in the mean time, we're dependent on foreign sources--and those are going to be in short supply in coming weeks.

The first clampdown on the supply of key isotope molybdenum-99 came in May when a Canadian reactor shut down due to a leak. Now, a Netherlands-based reactor will go down for scheduled maintenance in a few days, bringing a total of two-thirds of the world's supply of molybdenum-99 offline.

Within a couple of weeks, providers expect to see serious shortages of of Mo-99, and eventually, Iodine-131 as well. I-131, which is used to treat thyroid cancer and hyperthyroidism, will disappear more slowly since it has a longer half-life than Mo-99, but it will run out nonetheless, experts warn.

Over the period of drought, providers expect to lean on reactors in Australia and South Africa. Still, shortages will continue to be an issue.

To learn more about this problem:
- read this Wall Street Journal blog item