Insulin Pens Used on Multiple Patients – CNN Story

Hundreds of veterans may have been exposed to hepatitis B, hepatitis C and HIV because of medical oversights that allowed insulin pens to be used on more than one patient at a Veterans Administration hospital in Buffalo, New York, according to a memo from the Department of Veterans Affairs to Congress.

“On November 1, 2012, officials at the (Veterans Affairs Western New York Healthcare System) reported that while conducting pharmacy inspection rounds on the inpatient units, they discovered that insulin pens intended for individual patient use were found in the supply drawer of the medication carts without a patient label on them,” said the memo, obtained by CNN through the office of U.S. Rep. Brian Higgins, D-New York. “Although the disposable needles were changed each time it was used, the insulin pens intended for individual patient use may have been used on more than one patient.”


This one seems like hyperbole really; that is if the story is accurate.

It is true that insulin pens are a convenience item meant for individual patient use. They probably shouldn’t have been at the Veterans Administration in the first place as they cost more than standard insulin devices.

But if the needles were really changed between patients, the real risk of viral transmission is essentially zero. This seems more an example of Congregational grandstanding than anything else. Having served as a resident at a Veterans Administration hospital, it would not surprise me if the claim about the needles being changed between patients is not true however.

Best Regards,

John Di Saia MD