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Pilot strike leads to nuclear medicine shortage

by Brendon Nafziger, DOTmed News Associate Editor | May 02, 2011
Air India's pilot
strike enters its sixth day.
Thousands of patients in India lack access to nuclear medicine because of a pilot strike, Times of India reports.

A strike involving 90 percent of the Indian airline's flights and nearly half of its 1,600 pilots has left some hospitals with severe shortages of radiopharmaceuticals for diagnosing and treating cancer.

A doctor at the 450-bed Kerala Institute of Medical Sciences, located at Trivandrum in the state of Kerala, told the Times he received his last dose of Samarium Sm 153 lexidronam on Sunday. Sm 153, which has a half-life of about two days, is a radiopharmaceutical used to relieve bone pain for patients with advanced cancer.

"Tomorrow, I would have no option but to send back at least six patients. At several other centers, people with cancer of several parts of the body will go without treatment," Dr. Ajith Joy, a nuclear medicine consultant with the hospital, told the paper.

Other domestic Indian airlines can't fill in for Air India as they aren't certified to carry hazardous material or they don't serve small towns, the Times said. However, some hospitals in Chennai, Bangalore and Hyderabad are arranging costly special flights to deliver the medicine.

Pilots for India's flagship carrier have been striking over pay for six days.

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