With Covid-19 causing widespread flight cancellations, worrying gaps in health supply chains have been exposed, with over $350,000 spent chartering flights to deliver critical medicine to diagnose and treat children’s cancers.
In a parliamentary submission, ANSTO have revealed they now rely on imports from Japan for iodine-123 which is needed by a dozen patients at any one time around Australia, mostly children with neuroblastoma. The isotope must be distributed quickly as it expires within 33 hours of being manufactured in Japan. A reduction in flights because of COVID-19 has made the availability of overseas supplies difficult and unreliable. ANSTO justified the flight costs saying that it was “focused on doing everything we can to continue the supply of life-saving nuclear medicine”. “International and domestic charter flights were needed to ensure this essential product reached its patients”.
This highlights the potential for disruption to the import of nuclear medicines caused by pandemics.