Reused Insulin Pen Infection Warning Expands to 2nd New York Hospital

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By: Irvin Jackson | Published: January 25th, 2013

Another New York hospital has been found to have been reusing insulin pens on different patients, potentially exposing them to blood borne diseases like hepatitis C and HIV. 

Olean General Hospital in Olean, New York, is warning 1,915 patients that they may have been exposed to a risk of disease because the hospital improperly reused insulin pens on multiple patients.

The hospital is advising those patients by letter (PDF) that they should arrange for a blood test with the hospital. A press release (PDF) was issued by the hospital to alert the public to the problem on January 24.

The warning comes less than two weeks after the Buffalo Veterans Administration Center issued a similar warning to more than 700 patients treated there between October 19, 2010 and November 2012.

Olean says those affected were patients between November 2009 and January 16, 2013. To date, no reports of disease transmission have been linked to the improperly used insulin pens in either hospital.

The problem in both cases arises from the reuse of insulin pens on different patients. While the pens are designed to be reusable, and the needles were always disposed of after one injection, the pens themselves should only be reused on the same patient, in case blood flows back into the pen. At both hospitals, it appears that pens meant for a single patient were used on multiple patients.

Both hospitals are providing blood tests free of charge. Olean has created a call center and is asking patients to call to make an appointment for testing or talk to a nurse if they have any questions.

Officials said that the story about the Buffalo VA center’s use of the pens made the hospital take a look at its own usage.

“Interviews with nursing staff indicated that the practice of using one patient’s insulin pen for other patients may have occurred on some patients,” said Timothy J. Finan, president and CEO of Upper Allegheny Health System, which runs Olean General Hospital. “These pens are used in hospitals across America, and I want to emphasize that we have been unable to identify any specific patients where this occurred and we have no indication of any infections as a result of their use at Olean General Hospital.”

Patients with questions or who wish to set up a blood test can call the Olean General Hospital call center at (888) 980-1220 or (716) 375-7590.

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