A unit of General Electric Co., GE Healthcare Technologies Ltd, has received approval from India’s Atomic Energy Regulatory Board, for setting up the country’s first radiopharmacy centre. The centre, located at Noida near New Delhi, is expected to start operations this December.
It will manufacture and sell so-called nuclear medicines used in patients for advanced diagnostics. Nuclear medicines, or radiopharmaceuticals, are isotopes that are injected in patients for taking images of the functioning of organs such as the heart, kidney and liver using advance scanners and other imaging machines. Organ imaging using nuclear medicine scanners is conducted by mapping the blood supply in human body after injecting these agents into the bloodstream. This advanced diagnostic system helps to detect symptoms of diseases ranging from coronary artery to Alzheimer’s. Since making these isotopes involves radioactive components, a prior approval from the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB) was required. The GE centre, after receiving the board’s clearance, is now awaiting approval from the drug controller general to launch the product. Indian hospitals and nuclear medicine centres import isotopes for scanning. Since these isotopes have a decay period of 6-72.5 hours, they lose at least half of their life by the time they can be administered to the patient. Hence, managing the logistics of imported isotopes has been difficult, and it has typically resulted in high overhead costs as well as a severe shortage. State-run Bhabha Atomic Research Centre in Mumbai has been producing these isotopes in limited quantities. GE is already a major player in the Indian diagnostic imaging systems market. It plans to open other such radiopharmacy centres in Mumbai, Bangalore and Hyderabad in cooperation with large hospitals. According to GE, setting up of such radiopharmaceutical centres will propel the market for nuclear medicine procedures in India to grow at a rate of 15-20% every year, up from 10% now.Amersham Health Pvt. Ltd, now a part of GE Healthcare, had obtained permission from the board to import bulk quantities of radiopharmaceutical cold kits and label them with “technetium-99m” to produce a ready-to-use injectable form for nuclear medicine departments in India. The Noida centre will cater to some 100 hospitals in the region. GE is also tying up with Tata Memorial Hospital in Mumbai and Healthcare Global at Bangalore to caterto these cities through a similar distribution channel.