The global molybdenum 99 market is expected to grow at a CAGR of 2% during the forecast period, 2023–2031
Molybdenum-99 is a human-made radioactive isotope that is derived from either highly enriched uranium or low enriched uranium. It is further decayed to form technetium-99, which is the most widely used medical imaging radioisotope. The medical diagnostic imaging technique uses over 80% of technetium-99m in all nuclear medicine procedures.
Even though the current supply of molybdenum-99 and technetium-99m isotopes is sufficient to meet the domestic and global demands, any change in the supply chain before the year ends may lead to severe dearth and would have a direct impact on medical care. Almost 95% of the world’s supply of molybdenum-99 is used to manufacture in seven research reactors located in Europe, Canada, Australia, and South Africa, and the scenario is likely to change during the upcoming years. It is distributed through an international supply chain every week. Molybdenum-99 and technetium-99m have to be delivered within a short duration of time as they have short half-lives and cannot be stockpiled.
Physicians all over the world use nuclear medicine imaging procedures to envision the structure and function of a tissue, organ, bone, or system within the body. In unprecedented times like this, it has become absolutely imperative that the healthcare industry comes up with better technologies that help in the early and accurate detection of life-threatening diseases.
Several diseases go undetected in the early stages and prove fatal when diagnosed at a later stage. For instance, ME/CFS is a complex multisystem disease with a population prevalence of at least 0.2% to 0.4%. In other words, up to 2 to 4 per 1,000 people and almost 250,000 people in the U.K. are affected by this disease. Several people in the U.K. experienced a delay in getting the proper diagnosis. As per the ME Association Survey, in the year 2016, only 18% of the people were diagnosed within six months of the onset of symptoms. Another 62% of the people had to wait for a year or more to obtain their diagnosis.
The protection of workers and public in the vicinity of nuclear medicine has become drastically important. The new imaging technology that involves the use of positron-emitting radionuclides for PET scanning has put the staff to high exposure. In the field of therapeutic application in nuclear medicine, the new agents with beta emitters of higher therapeutic effectiveness are being used, which poses a threat to the health of the people working in the department. The U.S. Department of Energy has been providing assistance in physical protection upgrades for as many as 22 foreign research reactors via the Global Research Reactor Program to help the workers.
Medical imaging comprises different imaging modalities and the advancement of processes to image the human body for diagnostic and treatment purposes. It plays an important role in enhancing public health for all population groups. Furthermore, medical imaging is used for detecting and diagnosing diseases.
Technetium-99m (6.02 h) is one of the widely used radioisotopes in nuclear medicine and accounts for more than 80% of all diagnostic nuclear medicine procedures, which amounts to 7 million per annum in Europe and approximately 8 million per annum in the U.S. As per the International Atomic Energy Agency, current estimates are that 99mTc has used in around 30 million procedures every year globally and provides for 80–85% of all diagnostic investigations using nuclear medicine techniques.
Basically, technetium 99m, a workhorse isotope, is the decayed product of molybdenum 99 used in nuclear medicine for diagnostic imaging. It is used for the detection of diseases and the study of organs. It is incorporated in small molecule ligands and proteins that gather in specific organs or tissues when injected into the body. Molybdenum has a half-life of about 6 hours and emits 140 keV photons; after being decayed to Technetium 99, it has a half-life of 214,000 years.
The U.S.: World’s Largest Consumer of MO-99
The U.S. consumes almost half of the world’s supply of Mo-99. However, there has been no domestic production of this isotope since the late 1980s in terms of domestic consumption. The U.S. imports Mo-99 for domestic use from Canada, Australia, Europe, and South Africa.
Almost all Mo-99 produced in the region is performed using irradiating highly enriched uranium (HEU) targets in research reactors. Many of these research reactors in the country are over 50 years old and on the verge of the end of their operative lives. The unforeseen and extended shutdowns of some of these old reactors have resulted in a severe Mo-99 supply shortage in the U.S. and other countries. The shortage of Mo-99 has, to an extent, disrupted the supply.
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