HIV and Hepatitis Testing for Insulin Pen Misuse

HIV Hepatitis

Patients in a Long Island, New York hospital may have been exposed to HIV, hepatitis B and hepatitis C, from the hospital staff practice of using insulin pen reservoirs on multiple patients. According to NBC New York, the South Nassau Communities Hospital says the risk of infection is low but is recommending testing in order to eliminate any conclusions. The exposure began when a nurse at South Nassau Communities Hospital was overheard saying that it was okay to reuse an insulin pen. Insulin reservoirs may be used more than once by a single patient. It is a hospitals responsibility when using an insulin pen to properly label the patient information on the pen.

According to CBS New York, it was not the needle that was reused but the insulin pen which contains multiple doses. When administering insulin, blood may back-flow back into the pen that contains the insulin. Therefore, when administering to a patient with a new needle, the back-flow of the insulin pen is administered into the patient as well. South Nassau Communities Hospital is taking full responsibility by sending out over 4000 letters to patients informing them that they may be at risk for HIV, hepatitis B, and hepatitis C due to hospital staff insulin pen misuse. The hospital has also set up hotlines for patients to schedule free anonymous blood test. The risk of infection through insulin pen misuse is extremely low, but the hospital is taking all precautions in this matter, including the elimination of multiuse insulin pens in exchange for single dosage insulin pens.

This is not the first hospital in New York where this type of malpractice has occurred. Catskill Regional Medical Center issued a warning of potential exposure in May of 2013, for patients that may have been exposed between 2007 and 2013. According to CBS, in January of 2013 Olean General Hospital notified 1,915 patients that they may have been exposed to HIV, hepatitis B, and hepatitis C from receiving insulin from shared pens. Olean General Hospital conducted their investigation based on the findings of the Buffalo Veterans Affairs Medical Center. In May of 2013 The Buffalo News reported that 20 Veterans tested positive for hepatitis B and hepatitis C at Buffalo Veterans Affairs Medical Center, due to the same malpractice. Statistics released show that a possible 716 veterans may have been exposed to hepatitis or HIV from the improper use of insulin pens. According to an internal investigation 5 of the 37 nursing staff interviewed admitted to reusing the vials on multiple patients. It has also been reported that in 2009 the same incident occurred in Texas at a military hospital where 24 percent of the nurses surveyed believed that nurses used insulin pens on more than one patient. And in 2011 a Wisconsin outpatient clinic had to inform over 2,400 patients of potential exposure, due to the misuse of insulin pens.

Insulin pens where not developed for hospital usage. Although convenient, they require labeling for single patient. Many hospitals have reverted back to using vials in order to avoid any further risk of patients being exposed HIV and hepatitis for insulin pen misuse.

By Dony Lugo

NBC New York
CBS New York
CBS News
Buffalo News
Advance Healthcare Network

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