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GE HealthCare says CT contrast media supplies to return to normal in next few weeks

by John R. Fischer, Senior Reporter | March 07, 2023
CT X-Ray
GE HealthCare says its CT contrast media supply will return to normal levels in next few weeks.
Following a year-long shortage, GE HealthCare says it expects supplies of its iohexol and iodixanol intravenous contrast media for CT scans to return to normal in the coming weeks.

The COVID-19 lockdown in Shanghai in March 2022 led GE HealthCare to shutter its facility there, where all concentrations of its Omnipaque (iohexol) tracers are produced. While the factory was up and running by May, it was not fully operational again until the summer, and the interruption created a global shortage in contrast media.

In the U.S., where roughly half of U.S. hospitals depend on it for contrast media supplies, hospital and healthcare groups urged staff to ration and prioritize existing supplies for medical emergencies only.
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A Premier survey published in November 2022 showed that such actions compromised care for up to 10% of patients across the country in certain clinical focus areas, including COVID patients, mothers and babies, hip/knee and spinal surgical patients.

GE HealthCare originally projected the global shortage to last until June but later extended this to September. According to the Premier survey, around 5% of the average number of patients who typically would have received these imaging services did not in April and May and then increased to around 6% in July before recovering at the end of the summer.

During this time, the company bolstered supplies by shifting operations for these dyes to its fill and finish facility in Cork, Ireland, which covered about 20% of normal supply for customers. It also created a new production line there. Additionally, it partnered with SQM, a Chile-based mining company that manufactures iodine, a key ingredient in contrast media products.

Expecting demand for iodinated contrast media to double in the next 10 years, the company also invested $80 million to expand its manufacturing capacity at its Active Pharmaceutical Ingredients (API) facility in Lindesnes, Norway by 30%.

In a study published in Radiology, lead author Dr. Thomas Grist, chair of the department of radiology at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health, in Madison, said events like the Shanghai shutdown are likely to occur more frequently.

“It is too easy for us to take for granted the readily available supply of something that is so important to our patients and our radiologic practices until it’s gone,” he said. “We need to commit to changing the supply chain so that a single event in a faraway country does not put us in this predicament again.”

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