GE Healthcare is taking steps to secure its supply of the substance used in x-rays and CT scans after shortages of iodinated contrast media led to doctors in the U.S. postponing nonemergency tests.
The company said on Thursday that it struck a long-term agreement with Sociedad Quimica y Minera de Chile S.A., a mining company based in Chile, to secure its supply of iodinated contrast media. GE didn’t disclose the terms of the deal, although it added the agreement would support the company’s goal of producing 30 million more patient doses of iodinated contrast media annually by 2025.
Separately, the company is investing $30 million in a new manufacturing line at its contrast media production plant in Cork, Ireland.
Like other medtech companies, GE saw its supply chain disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Earlier this year as another wave of infections led to lockdowns in Shanghai, one of the facilities that the company uses to make contrast came to a standstill. That prompted GE to expand production in Ireland and switch from sea to air shipping to deliver available material faster.
By mid-June, the Shanghai-based plant had returned to full production capacity.
Still, the company is taking steps to shore up supply as it expects global demand for iodinated contrast media to double in the next 10 years, GE Healthcare CEO Kevin O’Neill said in a news release.
“As an industry leader, we understand our responsibility to help meet this growing demand from customers and patients by investing in production capacity and securing higher volumes of iodine raw material,” O’Neill said. “As one of the largest consumers of iodine globally we value our longstanding relationship with SQM, an important partner for us.