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In midst of shortage, GE Healthcare ramps up production of contrast agents

by John R. Fischer, Senior Reporter | May 13, 2022
CT European News X-Ray
GE Healthcare has ramped up production of its contrast agents to combat the shortage created by the shutdown of its Shanghai factory.
GE Healthcare has upped the output of its contrast agents following the temporary suspension of operations at its Shanghai factory where all concentrations of its Omnipaque (iohexol) tracers are produced.

Lasting several weeks, the suspension was initiated due to the COVID-19 lockdown in the city at the end of March 2022. While the factory has reopened and is ramping up production, the company expects there to be an 80% reduction in supplies for the next six to eight weeks. To offset the shortage, it has increased production at its factory in Ireland and is shipping products by air rather than sea from both factories to accelerate deliveries, reports Reuters.

"We are working around the clock to expand capacity of our iodinated contrast media products," a GE spokesperson said after the company closed its Shanghai facility for several weeks. "We are working to return to full capacity as soon as local authorities allow.”

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Omnipaque is used in CT, X-ray and radiography including for myelography (lumbar, thoracic, cervical, total columnar exams) as well as cisternography and ventriculography. The company has four contrast media manufacturing facilities, including the one in Shanghai. The shortage of Omnipaque and other agents produced there has limited supplies worldwide, including at some of the largest U.S. hospitals, such as Cleveland Clinic, Kaiser Permanente, Mayo Clinic, and Providence in Washington state.

While the Cork factory in Ireland is helping prevent delays in dye delivery, a Providence spokesperson told Reuters that production there would only cover about 20% of normal supply to all customers through the end of June. Most of the U.S. supply comes from Shanghai. As a result, the hospital is prioritizing existing supplies for critical cases such as stroke, trauma, acute aortic syndrome, new cancer diagnoses, pulmonary embolism and acute coronary syndrome.

The effects are also being felt in Europe, where the Association of German Hospitals told Reuters that GE alerted one of its members that its contrast agent could go out of stock in June due to the situation in Shanghai, according to Reuters.

The Greater New York Hospital Association warned its members on May 4 to take extra precautions to conserve its supply of tracers, specifically its Omnipaque products made in Shanghai. It also recommended assessing on-hand inventory; using alternative imaging modalities besides CT and X-ray; finding alternative ways to secure contrast agents; and reassessing protocol options.

Nancy Foster, the American Hospital Association’s vice president for quality and patient safety policy, said the AHA is monitoring the situation. “While we have been told to expect normal production to resume late next month, hospitals are exploring various conservation strategies including the use of other imaging technologies, using other contrast agents, rationing contrast and ensuring every available drop of contrast dye is used efficiently, and postponing some scans that can be postponed, to give a few examples, in order to continue to provide needed care.”

Bayer, a competitor in the contrast media space, is not experiencing a shortage and says it is taking “"several measures" to help supply providers with the tracers they need for their patients.

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