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Technetium supply to tighten further


Preparations for the High Flux Reactor in the Netherlands to go down for scheduled repairs threatens supply of medical isotopes, lawyers squabble over Amicas share price, and a new MR contrast agent hits the market.

Technetium supply to tighten further

This week brings bad news for the nuclear medicine community. The already constrained supply of technetium in the U.S. could get even tighter in the coming weeks. The Dutch High Flux Reactor at Petten, the Netherlands, is scheduled to go down for repairs lasting until August. And restart of the reactor at Chalk River, in Ontario, which was supposed to offset this loss and, eventually, normalize the supply of molybdenum-99 and the technetium it generates, may be delayed.

MDS Nordion(TSX: MDS; NYSE: MDZ), one of the world’s major suppliers of medical isotopes, has warned that any such delays, coming on top of the Petten reactor shutdown, could cause a global shortfall in technetium, one worse than any seen before. The result would be substantial delays in nuclear cardiac imaging.

Atomic Energy of Canada now says repairs of its 52-year-old reactor, which at one time provided half the U.S. supply of Mo-99, are “progressing at a slower pace than originally anticipated.” AECL is holding to its original target of completing repairs by the end of February. The tedious process of restarting the reactor can then begin with the removal of medical isotopes beginning 10 days after the reactor returns to service. If challenges persist, however, start-up might be delayed and medical isotopes may not be available until April. The Ontario reactor has been offline since last May. AECL has said it plans to return the reactor through 2016.


Fight over sale of Amicas shares heats up

The Christmas surprise attempt to take Amicas(Nasdaq: AMCS) private-a $217 million cash offer put under the tree Dec. 24-has brought less than unbridled glee to at least some shareholders. Since the deal for the publicly traded PACS/IT company was made, seven law firms have announced they are “investigating” Amicas board members. Among the allegations are “possible breaches of fiduciary duty and other violations of state law” in connection with their attempt to sell the company.

The $217 million offer represents $5.35 cash for each share of Amicas common stock, about 24% more than the average closing share price during the 30 trading days prior to the offer and a 38% premium over the average closing share price during the previous 90 trading days. Making the buyout more palatable is a stipulation in the proposed deal giving Amicas a month and a half to shop the company around to see if a better offer can be found.

The law firms that oppose the deal, however, question whether the Amicas board should have done their shopping before Christmas. More to the point, they are questioning whether the $5.35 per share being offered by Thoma Bravo represents a fair price.

Some investors agreed. In e-mails posted on the company’s Yahoo message board, one opined that “management should have sold the company for more than they did.” Another wrote that “the offer should have been at least $6.” But others took issue with the law firms, calling them “bottom feeders” and “quick-buck artists.” One hoped that they “trip chasing that ambulance.”



Ablavar…not Avatar

The name, thanks to James Cameron, sounds oddly familiar. And the claims are more than a decade old. But radiologists in the U.S. may not have heard of, nor likely had the chance to use, this particular imaging agent.

MR contrast agent Ablavar, a blood pool agent designed specifically for vascular imaging, formally entered the U.S. market with its launch Jan. 20 by Lantheus Medical Imaging. Available in markets outside the U.S. as Vasovist, it was approved more than a year ago by the FDA to evaluate aortoiliac occlusive disease in adults with known or suspected peripheral vascular disease. The blood pool agent was developed by Epix Pharmaceuticals, which last year sold the U.S. marketing rights to Lantheus. The albumin-binding properties of Ablavar keep it circulating in the blood stream much longer than other MR agents, allowing multiple images to be acquired from a single low-dose injection. Lantheus is pitching the agent as a way to create dynamic (first pass) and steady-state images without the ionizing radiation that comes from x-ray angiography.


People coming and going

Hiroaki Tada will step down this year from his post as president and CEO of Fujifilm Medical Systems USA. He will be succeeded by Naohiro Fujitani, who started transitioning to his new positions at the end of December. The company is expected to officially name Fujitani as president and CEO in mid-2010. A 34-year veteran of Fujifilm, Fujitani previously served as general manager of Fujifilm Graphic Systems in Europe. The incoming head of Fuji’s medical division shares a similar, if not exactly the same, lineage with its outgoing leader, as Tada served previously as president and CEO of Fujifilm Graphic Systems USA. The executive shuffle comes on the heels of an announcement, made at RSNA 2009, that the company has broadened and renamed its Networks Systems. Integrating the former Empiric and ProSolv Cardiovascular divisions into a single organization, the newly restructured Medical Informatics Division will be led by long-time Fujifilm Medical Systems USA exec Robert Cooke. As the new vice president and general manager, Cooke will head all business functions of the division. Aaron Waitz, formerly president and CEO of ProSolv Cardiovascular, has assumed the role of vice president, product development for Medical Informatics Global.

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