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EU officials join RCP warning on Brexit and medical isotopes

EU officials have warned the British government not to dismiss the impact of Brexit on Britain’s access to radioactive isotopes used to diagnose and treat cancer. This reflects concerns raised by the British Nuclear Medicine Society (BNMS) with the support of the Royal College of Radiologists (RCR) and Royal College of Physicians (RCP).

In its statement, the BNMS said:

We share the view of the RCR [and RCP] that leaving Euratom will impact on the supply and cost of medical radioisotopes and would like to see greater clarity regarding the future arrangements. We are working with NHS England on the security of the future supply chain for medical radioisotopes to UK hospitals. 

In the Financial Times' report, the UK government rejected the claims that withdrawing from the European nuclear regulator Euratom could interrupt trade in medical isotopes as 'scaremongering'.

Notes to editors

Euratom treaty

As part of the Brexit process, the British Government is also seeking UK withdrawal from the Euratom Treaty, which enshrines the regulation and safeguards for the transportation and use of radioactive materials and governs UK international nuclear cooperation agreements with European and third party countries, including Canada, Japan and the USA. Withdrawing from Euratom will affect the arrangements for the supply and use of radioactive isotopes to industry, power generation, academia and medicine.

Clinical nuclear medicine services in the UK undertake an important range of diagnostic and therapeutic procedures in an estimated 1 million people in the UK each year with a wide range of medical conditions. Since the UK does not produce any of the longer-lived medical radioisotopes, the majority of materials have to be imported into the country. If appropriate agreements and cross border transport arrangements are not put into place post Brexit, this would have impact on the management of patients both in the UK and in many other countries who depend on the supply of these essential medical supplies.