What is Nuclear Pharmacy?
- First specialty practice of Pharmacy established by the Board of Pharmacy Specialties in 1978
- Nuclear pharmacists prepare and dispense patient-specific radiopharmaceutical doses for diagnostic imaging and therapeutic procedures for use in hospital nuclear medicine departments and outpatient clinics
What is a radiopharmaceutical?
- A compound that incorporates a radioactive atom into a biologically-active molecule which localizes in a physiological or pathophysiological system
- Doses are measured in units of radioactivity termed curie (Ci) or becquerel (Bq)
- The physical half-life of radiopharmaceuticals is the time for one-half of the radioactivity to decay, which is usually only a few hours
- The short physical half-life of most radiopharmaceuticals requires preparation close to the time of use
- In diagnostic imaging, a radioactive atom, often attached to a ligand, travels to and localizes in a physiological process while emitting gamma and x-rays which are detected by a special camera providing assessment of function
- Diagnostic radiopharmaceuticals are specifically formulated to exert NO pharmacological effect and evaluate physical process
- Therapeutic radiopharmaceuticals emit beta- and alpha particles that are designed to target and kill specific cells, such as cancer
What’s different about Nuclear Pharmacy?
- The majority of nuclear pharmacists practice in closed-door commercial settings, providing services to local hospitals and clinics
- They are also found within large medical centers, and are often involved in drug discovery and development research
- While direct patient contact is minimal, the nuclear pharmacist provides drug information to nuclear medicine technologists and physicians, indirectly contributing to the care of individual patients
- Radiopharmaceuticals are sold to hospitals or clinics authorized to receive radioactive material, so the nuclear pharmacy staff isn’t involved in cash sales or insurance reimbursement
- Nuclear pharmacists’ work begins as early as midnight to prepare and dispense the radiopharmaceuticals to be administered to patients same day
- Nuclear pharmacists must complete a program to qualify as an Authorized Nuclear Pharmacist (ANP) with specialized education and training to prepare sterile compounds, handle radioactive materials, prepare shipments of radioactive material, and comply with federal and state regulations governing the use, handling, distribution and disposal of radioactive material