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Cancer diagnosis drug to be produced in Sri Lanka

KDU hospital, Werahera

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s cabinet of ministers has approved a proposal to establish a radioactive drug manufacturing center at the Kotelawala Defence University (KDU) Hospital in Werahera to produce Fluorodeoxyglucose (18F-FDG), a drug used in PET and CT scans to identify cancer cells in the body, the cabinet office said.

The drug is injected to the patient prior to a PET or CT which produces a colour-coded image of the body showing normal and cancerous cells. A device called a cyclotron is used to produce the drug. It is also used to diagnose heart disease and epilepsy.

Sri Lanka imports the drug from India due to a lack of cyclotron radiopharmaceutical facilities in the country, the cabinet office said in a statement, adding that due to radioactive decay about 97 per cent of the imported medicine becomes inactive. Only 10 patients can be tested with the remaining capacity, it said.

It is not clear how much 18F-FDG Sri Lanka imports from India annually. Sri Lanka has a need to test about 30,000 patients and only 1,600 can be tested on average annually, the cabinet said.

At present, it costs about Rs 54,000 for the government to test one patient using the imported drug. This cost can be brought down to Rs 14,000 by manufacturing it locally at the proposed Deoxy Glucose Drug Manufacturing Centre, the statement said.

The facility will run in collaboration with the Atomic Energy Board of Sri Lanka, it added. (Colombo/Mar30/2021)

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