Nuclear pharmacy is a specialty area of pharmacy practice dedicated to the compounding and dispensing of radioactive materials for use in nuclear medicine procedures. A specialty area of pharmacy practice is one that requires a concentration and knowledge in one specific area. The development of nuclear pharmacy as a specialty area followed the development of nuclear medicine as a recognized specialty by the American Medical Association in the early 1970's.
As nuclear medicine procedures became more widely used, the need for someone to prepare the labeled products for administration to the patients became more evident. While many large hospitals were able to use pharmacists with training in the handling of radioactive material, smaller hospitals were unable to utilize nuclear medicine procedures because they did not have the staff to prepare the necessary doses in a cost effective manner. As a result, in the early 1970's, the concept of centralized nuclear pharmacies was born.
The operation of a nuclear pharmacy is not much different than that of a traditional pharmacy - a "prescription" for a particular product is presented, and the nuclear pharmacist must prepare and dispense that "prescription". Where a traditional pharmacist will dispense doses in milligram weight units, a nuclear pharmacist will dispense in millicurie activity units. Where a traditional pharmacist dispenses tablets and capsules, a nuclear pharmacist dispenses the radioactive material in liquid or capsule form. Where a traditional pharmacist will generally dispense the prescription to the patient, the nuclear pharmacist will dispense to a hospital or clinic nuclear medicine department where the dose will be administered to the patient.
In addition to preparing and dispensing the radioactive products, nuclear pharmacists are available to provide drug information to other health professionals, to aid the nuclear medicine staff in the selection of products, and to assist in the interpretation of unusual studies. Nuclear pharmacists receive extensive training on the various radiopharmaceuticals that are used, as well as training on the safe handling of radioactive materials and the procedures that will minimize radiation exposure to themselves and to others.
Line Avenue Pharmacy is a Nuclear Pharmacy licensed by both the Louisiana Board of Pharmacy and the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality Radiation Protection Division. We are licensed to receive, handle, store, and dispense isotopes to authorized users. Some of our services are listed below:
Image above: CT (left) and overlay PET/CT (right) images in a patient who presented with head and neck cancer in a lymph node in the neck. No primary site of tumor was detected by a diagnostic work-up that included conventional CT, physical examination and five random biopsies; however, combined PET/CT was able to clearly localize the primary tumor to the right tonsil.