BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) - More than 700 patients at the Buffalo Veterans Administration Center may have been exposed to HIV, hepatitis B or hepatitis C because of accidental reuse of insulin pens, according to a hospital statement and published reports.
Authorities say there is a "very small risk" for the diabetic patients who may have been exposed to the reused insulin pens between Oct. 19, 2010 and November 2012.
VA Hospital Chief of Medicine Dr. Donald McDonald said, "We cannot guarantee one hundred percent that body fluids couldn't have passed back into the insulin pen. So through an abundance of caution, we are notifying all patients who may have been affected."
Insulin pens used by diabetics to inject insulin can be disposable or reusable with replaceable needles and cartridges. But according to the Institute for Safe Medication Practices, even reusable pens should not be used on more than one patient.
The VA also notified western New York members of Congress of the possible exposure. Congressman Higgins calls the errors "disgraceful and appalling." He questioned in a letter to Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki why it took two years to catch the error and why there was a three-month delay in informing patients.
Rep. Chris Collins added, "People have to be trained and trained again and procedures need to be in place and protocol that this doesn't happen. And that's something the VA will have to answer to in making sure that this doesn't happen and asking questions, obviously, why did it happen in the first place."
The VA said it is offering free blood tests to rule out any infections.
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