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Monday, 17 September 2012
Page: 7128

Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation

(Question No. 1873)


Senator Ludlam asked the Minister for Tertiary Education, Skills, Science and Research, upon notice, on 7 June 2012:

In regard to isotope production at the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation’s (ANSTO) Open Pool Australian Lightwater (OPAL) reactor:

(1) Does ANSTO routinely supply all of Australia’s Molybdenum 99 (Mo-99) requirements.

(2) Does ANSTO export Mo-99.

(3) Why has the cost of Mo-99 based generators for Australian patients increased since OPAL was commissioned.

(4) Does ANSTO import Iodine-123 (I-123), Thallium 201 (TI-201) and Gallium-67 (Ga-67); if so, is this because the National Medical Cyclotron was decommissioned in 2009.

(5) Will any of the collaborations entered into by ANSTO be capable of producing I-123, TI-201 and Ga-67.

(6) How much does ANSTO charge for a dose of I-123, used for scanning patients with thyroid cancer, and how much of this is covered by the Medicare rebate.

(7) Does ANSTO’s sale price include a profit margin on the imported price.

(8) Could the cost impost lead to patients having a less effective diagnosis.

(9) Does the OPAL reactor produce Lutetium 177 (Lu-177).

(10) Why is the ANSTO import of Lu-177 more expensive than the international suppliers’ direct charge.

(11) How much does ANSTO charge for Iodine 133 (I 133), used in the treatment of patients with overactive thyroids and the most lethal forms of thyroid cancer.

(12) Is the maximum Medicare rebate for I 133 $417, and the cost of the material to the administering hospital between $688 and $870.

(13) Is there a Medicare rebate for I 133 MIBG, used in the treatment of children with incurable neuroblastoma and some adults with similarly incurable tumours, produced by ANSTO at a cost to the administering hospital of between $4 862 and $7 893.

(14) Can the Minister confirm that patients with metastatic skeletal cancer that is refractory to all other treatments who are treated with Samarium 153 (Sm) Lexidronam produced at ANSTO are charged a minimum of $3 255, with a Medicare rebate of $2 323.


Senator Chris Evans: The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:

(1) Yes.

(2) Yes.

(3) In order to comply with competitive neutrality principles.

(4) ANSTO imports Iodine-123 and Gallium-67. The unreliability of the National Medical Cyclotron (NMC) in the period leading up to its closure in 2009 meant that imports were periodically required even before that date. The implementation of a reliable importation strategy has improved the reliability of supply to hospitals and patients.

(5) No.

(6) I-123 mIBG comes in two doses, depending on the specific procedure being undertaken. The price for 200MBq is $1045 and the price for 400MBq is $1984. Questions regarding rates of Medicare reimbursement should be raised with the Department of Health and Ageing.

(7) ANSTO’s pricing complies with competitive neutrality principles, which include a requirement of an adequate rate of return.

(8) This is a clinical question that should be discussed with a Nuclear Medicine specialist.

(9) No.

(10) ANSTO’s pricing complies with competitive neutrality principles.

(11) Iodine-131 (not iodine-133) is used for the treatment of thyroid cancer. It comes in a variety of forms and doses, depending on the specific procedure being undertaken. Prices range from $505 to $870 per dose.

(12) As noted in the response to part (10), the price for I-131 (not I-133) ranges from $505 to $870 per dose. Questions regarding rates of Medicare reimbursement should be raised with the Department of Health and Ageing.

(13) I-131 mIBG is only produced as needed for the treatment of particular patients under the TGA Special Access Scheme. Each production run in the OPAL reactor only delivers one dose, and as such is very costly. ANSTO’s pricing complies with competitive neutrality principles. Questions regarding rates of Medicare reimbursement should be raised with the Department of Health and Ageing.

(14) Yes, the price of Samarium 153 (Sm) Lexidronam produced at ANSTO is $3,255. Questions regarding rates of Medicare reimbursement should be raised with the Department of Health and Ageing.