Some Hospitals Reuse Insulin Injector Pens

You might remember a blog we wrote last year about safe injection practices, and how hepatitis, HIV and infections can be spread when hygiene is not a priority.

Nothing is stupider than reusing invasive medical equipment, but a couple of hospitals in New York don’t seem to have a very high safe-injection IQ. As reported on last month, Buffalo Veterans Administration Center and Olean General Hospital have both been found to have reused insulin pens on different patients.

Such devices are designed to be reusable, but only for the same patient, and only when the needles are changed after each injection. Although the hospitals used new needles for each patient, blood can still back up into the pen, which makes them safe only for one user. But the New York hospitals apparently allowed multiple patients to use a single pen. All of them are now at risk of hepatitis C and HIV.

Olean General warned 1,915 patients that they might have been exposed between November 2009 and Jan. 16, 2013, and Buffalo Veterans warned more than 700 patients who might have been exposed between October 2010 and November 2012. So far, there are no reports of disease transmission caused by the improper use of the insulin pens, but the incubation period for HIV can be two years. Hepatitis C can incubate for six months.

If you or a loved one received an insulin pen injection at either of these facilities, contact them immediately to receive free blood tests. In addition, Olean has a call center for anyone with questions-(888) 980-1220.

For everyone else, the lesson is always to watch the preparation of an injection. If you don’t see how the medication was prepared, whether it involves a pen, syringe or IV tube, ask the doctor, nurse or other health-care aide who is giving it to you if the both the dispenser and the needle are fresh. If you have any question that they aren’t, decline the medication until you are allowed to see its preparation.

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