January 15th, 2013
Over 700 veterans have potentially been exposed to hepatitis C, hepatitis B and HIV through the accidental misuse of insulin pens at the Buffalo Veterans Association Medical Center in Western New York.
A memo from the US Department of Veterans Affairs identified a “very small risk” to diabetic patients treated with the reused insulin pens between October 2010 and November 2012.
The problem was discovered during a routine pharmacy check on 1st November. The pens were found without patient labels, indicating that they could have been used more than once. Although the needles were always changed, it was noted that bodily fluids could have entered the insulin pens, potentially injecting the following patient.
The Department of Veterans Affairs highlighted the possibility that patients could be infected through the contaminated equipment.
Evangeline Conley, spokesperson for the hospital, said: “Once this was identified, immediate action was taken to ensure the insulin pens were labeled and only used according to pharmaceutical guidelines.”
Although the hospital changed the needles after use, the pens were possibly administered to multiple patients. According to the Institute for Safe Medication Practices, insulin pens should not be used on more than one patient.
The hospital is now offering blood tests to rule out the possibility of infection for the concerned veterans. According to the published reports from the hospital, no one has yet been infected.
A recent report revealed that of the six million veterans receiving care from the Veterans’ Affairs (VA) health care system in 2010 around 165,000 had evidence of chronic hep C. This increased likelihood of infection is due to high risk factors, such as exposure to infected blood during combat.
Photo by The U.S. Army