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By Rheingold Giuffra Ruffo Plotkin & Hellman LLP

By: Charles Lee

Buffalo VA Medical Center and most recently, a Western New York hospital, have left their patients vulnerable to life-threatening diseases such as HIV, hepatitis B or Hepatitis C via: insulin pens. Improper handling and sharing of insulin pens are leaving the 1,915 possibly infected patients to arrange for blood testing. Though the risk according to Olean General Hospital is very low, hospital officials wished for the patients to be aware of any future possible outcome.

“We are very aware that while the risk of infection from insulin pen re-use is extremely small, cross contamination from an insulin pen is possible.” said Timothy Finan, president and chief executive of Upper Allegheny Health System- the parent company of the Olean hospital. “Interviews with nursing staff indicated that the practice of using one’s patient’s insulin pen for other patients have occurred on some patients.”

After the incident in Buffalo where 700 patients were possibly exposed to blood-borne pathogens, Olean hospital (NY) has been changing needles with caution ever since. With each insulin pen usage, the stored insulin within a pen cartridge continues to pose as infectious thanks to a back flow of blood within each use.

Olean Hospital has yet to release specific information about possibly infected patients, but Finan later released the following statement, “regardless, to the extent there may be a chance, however remote, that any patient was provided insulin from an insulin pen other than their own, Olean General Hospital has decided to be proactive and aggressive with respect to notification of our patients.”

The dangers from infectious diseases is well known to our firm. In 1997 Baxter Healthcare was found to have HCV-infected Gammagard immunoglobulin after taking blood donations from inner city blood banks which were not testing donors. More recently in 2008, we litigated for clients who got Hepatitis B and C at Las Vegas endoscopy centers which were reusing needles and drug vials.

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