The production of radiopharmaceuticals used for diagnosis and treatment of various diseases, such as cancer, may be halted in Brazil as of September 20, due to lack of federal funds.
The alert was given by Ipen (Institute for Energy and Nuclear Research), an agency linked to the CNEN (National Nuclear Energy Commission) and the main producer of materials that serve as the basis for these medicines in the country.
In a letter disclosed to nuclear medicine services, to which the sheet had access, it is stated that the unfavorable exchange rate and the cut in CNEN’s budget resulted in a decrease in the funds available for Ipen and, consequently, in this situation of risk to the continuity of production.
Radiopharmaceuticals are essential medicines for nuclear medicine — a specialty that uses small amounts of radioactive materials for the treatment and diagnosis of various ailments.
The impact of the stoppage in production should affect mainly cardiac and cancer patients, explains George Coura, president of the SBMN (Brazilian Society of Nuclear Medicine).
In addition to the areas of cancer and heart problems, there are also applications of radiopharmaceuticals for dementia and epilepsy, among other diseases, .
Estimates by the SBMN indicate that these drugs should be used in 1.5 million to 2 million procedures, such as radiotherapy, each year.
“When the medications run out, 5,000 to 10,000 patients a day will not have access to the procedures,” says Coura.
An example of a nuclear medicine test is myocardial perfusion scintigraphy. It indicates whether or not a patient is at risk of suffering a heart attack.
From there, the doctor is able to decide whether the person needs an intervention, such as surgery, or whether to follow a drug treatment.
Another case in which radiopharmaceuticals are used is, for example, in the treatment of thyroid cancer.
After removing the gland, patients are usually given radioactive iodine. This is so that they have a greater chance of a cure and a decrease in the likelihood that the disease will return.
Coura says that without this iodine produced by Ipen, some patients may not have a cure for this disease as would normally be expected.
To solve the situation, the existence of a bill that seeks approval of extra resources, in the amount of R$ 34.6 million reais, is mentioned in the letter to CNEN.
It is also informed that the MCTI (Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation), which Inpe and CNEN are part of, is striving to raise an additional R$ 55.1 million that would be allocated to the production of radiopharmaceuticals.
“When we consulted the Chamber on the processing of this bill, a rapporteur has not even been appointed. It may take a while for it to be appreciated, for amendments to be suggested, for it to pass to the Senate. So it can be a long process and, during this, patients can be left unattended”, says the president of the medical society.
Ipen and CNEN also state in the letter that “they have exhausted all means to avoid discontinuity, including receiving advice from the Federal Attorney General (AGU), in this context”.
Wanted by sheet, the press office of CNEN informed that the ministry is “leading the matter”.
The MCTI, in turn, responded that it has been working with the Ministry of Economy “since June 2021” to make more resources available for the production of radiopharmaceuticals and that it is “raising awareness in the National Congress by voting and approving PLN 16/2021, scheduled for The next week”.
Also contacted, Ipen did not comment until the conclusion of the report.
“My cry is that federal agencies look with affection and compassion at these patients and look for faster alternatives, such as other means of funding or restricted funds”, says Coura.
“Other alternatives than a bill that needs to be processed in the Chamber and Senate, due to the emergency nature of the shortage”, he concludes.