USA – GE Healthcare has entered into a multi-year partnership with Sociedad Quimica y Minera de Chile S.A. (SQM), a Chilean mining company, to secure and increase the supply of raw iodine material, a key ingredient in iodinated contrast media (ICM) for computed tomography (CT) and X-ray imaging.

SQM, one of the world’s largest iodine producers, stated that approximately 24 percent of its iodine production is used for ICM in medical imaging.

The GE Healthcare and SQM agreement calls for annual increases in iodine supply.

Their ongoing collaboration with GE Healthcare is part of a broader plan to increase the supply of iodine raw material, eventually enabling the production of an additional 30 million doses of iodinated contrast media annually by the year 2025.

Pablo Altimiras, Executive Vice President of Iodine and Nitrates at SQM, commented on the latest initiative.

We’re pleased to continue our relationship with GE Healthcare,” Altimiras said. “We are committed to the iodine industry and will continue to improve quality and increase capacity to ensure the reliability of supply, which is essential to so many sectors, including healthcare.”  

SQM has been collaborating with GE for over 40 years and is one of the world’s largest iodine producers. Iodinated contrast media consume approximately 24 percent of SQM’s iodine production.

GE Healthcare is expanding manufacturing in addition to the SQM agreement. It is investing US$30 million in a new manufacturing line at its contrast media production facility in Cork, Ireland.

GE Healthcare’s Pharmaceutical Diagnostics business develops and manufactures imaging agents used to support over 100 million procedures per year globally, equivalent to three patient procedures every second.

It is estimated that the new manufacturing line will increase production capacity at the Cork facility by over 50 percent by 2025.

After a worldwide iodinated contrast media shortage recently wreaked havoc on the healthcare system, causing tens of thousands of imaging procedures to be delayed or canceled, these moves should come as welcome news to the imaging community.

Officials at GE HealthCare anticipate that demand for contrast media will continue to rise. This is because chronic diseases are becoming more common all over the world.

Iodinated contrast media improves the visibility of organs, blood vessels, and tissues throughout the clinical care pathway.

Meanwhile, General Electric’s (GE) healthcare spin-off is due to take place in January 2023. The American conglomerate has now confirmed the details of this event.

The group announced its intention to split the company into three separate publicly traded companies, each focused on energy, healthcare, and aviation, in November 2021.

The spinoff will be named GE HealthCare and will retain the current healthcare unit with a new set of board members.

What it means for investors

Since the beginning of 2022, GE’s stock has dropped significantly. It experienced turbulence as a result of pandemic-induced supply chain constraints.

Medical equipment deployments, primarily from China, had a significant impact on the company. Siemens Healthineers and Philips faced similar difficulties.

It is entirely unknown what investors should pay for the healthcare spin-off. However, based on Siemens Healthineers’ valuation, the market value is estimated to be around US$15 billion. GE will own 19.9% of the new healthcare venture.

Demand for medical equipment continues to rise. The current healthcare unit’s revenue has increased for two consecutive quarters.

In contrast, its revenue from renewable energy and energy power has decreased. The healthcare sector arm is likely to remain a consistent source of revenue for the company.

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