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May 9, 2008 - N.Y. Medical Center Investigates Possible Reuse of Insulin Pens

Nassau University Medical Center (NUMC) in East Meadow, New York, announced yesterday that insulin pens may have been reused, possibly exposing patients to hepatitis B, hepatitis C, and HIV. As many as 185 diabetes patients who might have been exposed will be notified in letters sent out this week.  The letters will urge patients to return to NUMC to undergo free testing for the viruses. 

According to Dr. Steven Walerstein, the hospital’s medical director, there have not yet been any reports of infection resulting from the reused insulin pens.

Nurses at NUMC reported hearing rumors about possible syringe reuse, and the center opted to exercise caution and inform patients of the possibility of exposure. “We don’t know if it actually happened, but there was enough hearsay to conclude it might have happened,” a hospital executive said.  “We decided we have to do the best we can to protect people’s health.”  The New York Department of Health was on-site at NUMC yesterday investigating the problem.

The single-use insulin pens are considered safer than using syringes with multidose vials.  NUMC started using the Lantus SoloSTAR and NovoLog FlexPen brands of insulin pens on November 26 after thoroughly educating its staff on the proper use of the devices.

The hospital said only those patients known to have ever used the pens from November 26 to May 5 are at risk of exposure. In the meantime, the hospital is again using multidose vials for administering insulin to its patients.

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