New MBS items for GPs to address shortage of nuclear medicine scans

19 Sep 2019

From the Acting Australian Government Chief Medical Officer, Professor Paul Kelly

The Australian Government has responded to the shortage of nuclear medicine scans following an equipment failure at Lucas Heights, the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation’s (ANSTO) facility.

The Health Department is aware that ANSTO has secured a limited supply of molybdenum-99 (Mo-99) for Tc-99m Generators from international suppliers and that this supply is increasing over the next few weeks.

This supply is being distributed to priority areas on the advice of the Nuclear Medicine Working Group in consultation with the states and territories.

To help ensure patients have continued access to common nuclear medicine diagnostic imaging services, the Department of Health has acted to add six temporary items to the Medicare Benefits Schedule (MBS).

These items enable the use of alternative equipment (PET) and/or alternative radiopharmaceuticals to provide equivalent diagnostic imaging services. 

Importantly, these items can be requested by all medical practitioners, including GPs.

Providers have been able to transmit claims for the additional MBS items since Tuesday, 17 September 2019 and the items will be available for an initial period of three months.

The specifics are detailed in the Health Insurance (Section 3C Diagnostic Imaging – Nuclear Medicine Services) Determination 2019, which can be accessed here.

Four unapproved radiopharmaceuticals are also required for use with these temporary MBS items.  As these products are not included in the Australian Register of Therapeutic Goods, they have been added to the Therapeutic Goods Administration’s Special Access Scheme Category C Medicines List, as follows and accessed here.

Item

Active ingredient

Dosage form

Route of administration

Indication

25

F18 Myocardial Perfusion Tracer (18F flurpiridaz)

Injection

Intravenous

myocardial perfusion study

26

F-18 NaF (Sodium fluoride)

Injection

Intravenous

bone study

30

Gallium- 68 (Ga-68) Galligas

Aerosol

Inhalation

lung ventilation study

31

Gallium-68 (Ga-68) – MAA

Injection

Intravenous

lung perfusion study

 

SAS Category C is a notification pathway which allows health practitioners to supply specified unapproved therapeutic goods that are deemed to have an established history of use without first seeking prior approval.

The preferred route for submitting notifications is through the SAS Online System.

The Department of Health will continue to monitor this issue closely and work with all state and territory jurisdictions, ANSTO and the Nuclear Medicine Working Group to minimise the effects of this shortage.

Medical professionals seeking further information about the temporary Medicare Benefits Schedule items can email mri@health.gov.au.

Questions about the Special Access Scheme can be directed to SAS@health.gov.au.

ANSTO is providing regular updates on its website.