Insulin Pen Scare at New York Veterans Center


insulinpenThe news covered a recent medical scare at the Buffalo Veterans Administration Center in New York. This scare came about due to the ‘re-usage’ of insulin pens. By reusing insulin pens, that has patients worried about possible HIV, hepatitis B or hepatitis C infections. The time frame in question runs from Oct. 2010 to Nov. 2012. So that’s about 2 years worth of patients that have been using that facility.

Before everyone panics, hospital officials said that there is a ‘very small risk’ for more than 700+ patients exposed during tha time period. An insulin pen is used to inject insulin for the treatment of diabetes. Insulin is a hormone produced by the pancreas. It is composed of an insulin cartridge (integrated or bought separately) and a dial to measure the dose, and is used with disposable or reusable pen needles to deliver the dose.

It seems the accidental re-usage was discovered in a routine pharmacy inspection last fall. In a statement, VA spokeswoman Evangeline Conley said the hospital “recently discovered that in some cases, insulin pens were not labeled for individual patients.” She added that “although the pen needles were always changed, an insulin pen may have been used on more than one patient.” Conley said that once this was discovered the hospital took “immediate action” to ensure the insulin pens were being used according to pharmaceutical guidelines.

After seeing the VA’s memo, Rep. Chris Collins, a Republican who represents the Buffalo area, said he spoke with Dr. Robert A. Petzel, undersecretary for health at the Department of Veterans Affairs. “His thought was that it’s a very, very low chance of passing infection,” Collins said. “But it’s not out of the realm of possibility, and that’s why they’re testing everyone,” Collins told the News. The VA Center is offering free blood tests to any possible patient to rule out any infections.

Blood exposure or needle re-usage is a way to become infected, so its wise for hospital officials to follow protocol. Patients should get checked out to be safe but shouldn’t panic. The chances are very slim but one should always be cautious and ‘not’ re-use pens used by others. That’s just not a wise practice we advise. One should always make sure if visiting a doctors office to ‘question’ and ask for sterile items if concerns you. Its your health, don’t be shy, so always ask to ensure you’re not accidentally exposed or have to worry. Accidents happen, but don’t let it happen to you.

Tom Thayer

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