Radiotracer price increase roils nuclear medicine community

An increase in the price of two commonly used radiotracers is creating an uproar in the nuclear medicine industry.

Radiopharmaceutical firm Jubilant DraxImage has instituted one-time price hikes for macroaggregated albumin (MAA) and diethylenetriamine pentaacetate (DTPA), according to DOTmed News.

According to the company, the price hikes were to "ensure the sustainability and long-term supply of [these products] in the United States for vitally important lung scans, known as V/Q procedures." These scans are most often used to diagnose or exclude pulmonary embolism.

Mark Tulchinsky, a professor of radiology and medicine and associate director of nuclear medicine at Pennsylvania State University's Milton S. Hershey Medical Center, told DOTmed News that the price hikes were "outrageous," and said the added expense involved in the V/Q scans could result in more people undergoing CT pulmonary angiograms rather than V/Q scans, resulting in increased radiation exposure.

Tulchinsky added that his facility has seen the price of an MAA vial increase from $26 to a whopping $561, and DTPA vials from $23 to $172.

Martyn Coombs, the company's president, explained the price increase in video message to customers on April 25, calling it "really about sustainability rather than pricing."

"We've been losing money on MAA for many years, and we were faced with a position where as well as losing money with every vial we had to invest a lot of money to keep the product on the market," Coombs said. "We are the only supplier in North America and our choice therefore was whether to stop manufacturing, which would have been a terrible situation for the medical community and for patients, or to invest a lot more." 

Consequently, he said, the decision was made to institute a one-off price increase, the revenue with which the company will invest in the "process, so we will make sure we have a reliable, robust process and we don't have the same shortage situation we had before." The company previously warned customers of a shortage of MAA last fall.

In April, Gary Dillehay, president of the Society of Nuclear Medicine and Molecular Imaging, in a letter to the SNMMI membership, called the price increase deeply concerning.

"SNMMI has never endorsed this drastic price increase," Dillehay said. "As soon as we heard about it, we strongly stated our opposition, and we will continue to ask JDI to reconsider its action, especially considering this is a single-source product for which there is no FDA-approved alternative."

To learn more:
- read the article in DOTmed News
- watch the video message from Jubilant DraxImage
- see the letter from the SNMMI

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