Nuclear Pharmacy Growing
Spring 2012 Issue | By Julie Hillebrant
An interest helped Cathy Cashmore create a business in her field
Graduating from the ISU College of Pharmacy in 1993, Cathy Cashmore never expected to be running a nuclear pharmacy. However, standing in the lab at Advanced Isotopes of Idaho surrounded by syringe pigs, lead-lined shielding, and Geiger counters, "Here I am," she said.
After graduation, Cashmore stayed in Pocatello, eventually becoming associate dean of the College of Pharmacy. After a six-month sabbatical to pursue a longtime interest in nuclear pharmacy, she came back to provide students with an opportunity to learn nuclear pharmacy, and it became a business.
She is now pharmacist-in-charge and part owner with Nicole Chopski at Advanced Isotopes of Idaho in Chubbuck. It is one of the few independent nuclear pharmacies in the country. Opened in February, 2006, "it provides all of the radiopharmaceuticals for nuclear medicine facilities from Logan, Utah, Pocatello and Idaho Falls locally, as far north as Jackson Hole, Wyoming, and as far west as Minidoka and Cassia counties," Cashmore said.
The vast majority of all the doses that the pharmacy provides are for medical diagnostic testing, although the pharmacy does provide I-131 and Y-90 doses for treatment of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, thyroid cancer and hyperthyroidism.
Recently, the pharmacy began treating felines with hyperthyroidism. Veterinarian Walter Rowntree was riding his bike in the area and noticed the Advanced Isotopes of Idaho sign. He stopped in and asked if they could supply I-131 and Y-90. Ever since, Rowntree has offered it as a treatment option for cats with hyperthyroidism. According to Cashmore, the cats are brought in on a Friday, receive their injection and are isolated for three days because they are "hot" with radiation.
"Radioactive iodine has always been the gold standard treatment for this disease," Rowntree said. "In the past, a cat owner would have to travel to Utah, Washington or Colorado for the treatment."
According to Rowntree, I-131 treatment is also safe for the cat, and the prognosis is excellent. The two other treatment options are surgery or two to three doses of medication every day. So far, three cats have been treated with I-131 through the partnership, and "so far, all worked beautifully as expected," Rowntree said. "We are grateful to Cathy for being willing to help."
Advanced Isotopes of Idaho has also been a great opportunity for students to learn radiopharmacy. The College of Pharmacy not only offers an elective in nuclear pharmacy but a rotation opportunity for P4's through the lab. "After a single rotation, students earn approximately half of their hours to become an ANP (Authorized Nuclear Pharmacist)," Cashmore said.
In fact, Micah Rydman, one of Cashmore's first students at Advanced Isotopes, opted to complete his certification in nuclear pharmacy and began work after graduation at Cardinal Nuclear in Boise. He quickly rose to manager and is currently a preceptor offering Introductory Pharmacy Practice Experience and Advanced Pharmacy Practice Experience opportunities for pharmacy students.