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Million dollar cancer diagnostic machine stopped working due to running out of radioactive drugs

PET/CT scanners at People’s 115, Military Hospital 175, and Oncology Hospitals in Ho Chi Minh City stopped working due to lack of radioactive drugs, only available in Cho Ray, many cancer patients had to wait for a long time for diagnosis results. .

Ms. Thanh 65 years old, being treated at Ho Chi Minh City Cancer Hospital, appeared many lymph nodes near the esophageal cancer. The doctor appoints a PET/CT scan to determine whether the lymph node is metastatic or not to have an appropriate treatment. She contacted Military Medical Hospital 175, and was informed that there was no radioactive drug for the scan. A few days ago when she went to Cho Ray Hospital, the medical staff said that she could put her name on the registration list and wait for about a month because of the large number of patients. If she didn’t wait, she and many other patients would only have to go to Da Nang or Hanoi to perform.

PET/CT is a means of diagnosis, monitoring and treatment of many diseases, especially early detection of cancer thanks to the use of 18F-FDG radiopharmaceuticals. While other imaging methods usually only apply to one area of ​​the body, PET/CT can examine the whole body, helping to diagnose disease at the cellular and molecular level, and with sensitivity and sensitivity. specificity, high accuracy, capable of detecting lesions and pathologies at a very early stage. The price for one shot ranges from 25-27 million VND. This is the most modern machine, more sensitive than CT, very high investment cost up to millions of USD.

Doctor Pham Xuan Dung, Director of Ho Chi Minh City Oncology Hospital, said that the hospital has deployed a PET/CT machine system since early 2020 but has stopped working for more than half a year due to lack of radioactive drugs. Previously, the drug was provided by a company, then due to the procedure, it was interrupted. The Department of Health of Ho Chi Minh City sent an official dispatch to the Drug Administration of Vietnam, the Ministry of Health, to be instructed to contact Cho Ray Hospital to buy medicine. Currently, Oncology is waiting for Cho Ray’s response.

“The PET/CT machine is a rented machine, taking any case pays the investor for that case, so the hospital does not suffer, but cancer patients are disadvantaged and greatly affected without it,” said Dr. Dung and added that “the hospital is about to be handed over one more machine from the state budget, if there is no drug supply, both machines will be stuck”.

According to Dr. Dung, in the past, the hospital took about 10-20 cases of PET/CT every week. This is a modern, expensive technique. The doctor prescribes it very closely, choosing only when it is really necessary to request it. There are cases where CT scans do not detect cancer while having specific symptoms, only PET/CT scans give accurate results, helping doctors to prescribe timely and appropriate treatment.

People’s Hospital 115 used to install a PET/CT scanner system, but the machine has stopped working since 2018 because of a lack of radioactive drugs.

Thus, of the 4 places equipped with this system in Ho Chi Minh City, only the one at Cho Ray Hospital remains in operation thanks to the 18F-FDG radioactive drug production system located at this hospital. However, due to the fact that patients from all over the world gathered to the east while the machine could only take about 10 cases per day, not to mention the occasional shutdown to maintain the machine, Cho Ray was overloaded and could not meet the demand. patient. On the waiting list for the scan, in addition to the places where the machine stops working, there are many patients from other oncology hospitals such as Pham Ngoc Thach, University of Medicine and Pharmacy, Thu Duc City Hospital…

PET/CT scanner at Cho Ray Hospital.  Photo: Le Phuong

PET/CT scanner at Cho Ray Hospital. Image: Le Phuong

Doctor, Doctor Nguyen Tri Thuc, Director of Cho Ray Hospital, said that the Ministry of Health has allowed and the hospital will share the source of radioactive drugs with Military Medicine 175, Ho Chi Minh City Oncology to serve patients. However, the capacity of the radiopharmaceutical furnace of Cho Ray Hospital cannot be expanded further, while the demand for use is increasing, so it cannot meet it in time.

In 2019, many patients from Ho Chi Minh City had to go to Hanoi and Da Nang for PET/CT scans because radioactive medicine furnace Supply to the whole Ho Chi Minh City located at Cho Ray Hospital was broken and had to be sent to the US for repair. Because radiopharmaceuticals are produced in a very short time, they must be used for about 6-8 hours, so hospitals cannot deliver drugs from distant provinces to replace them.

Doctors expect that in the future Ho Chi Minh City will have more radioactive drug production furnaces so that hospitals can support each other when there is an incident, as well as develop more PET/CT scanning facilities due to increasing patient demand. high.

Le Phuong

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