Thousands potentially affected by possible insulin pen misuse

DERBY, Conn. (WTNH) — Insulin pens administered to patients over the past six years at Griffin Hospital may have been misused, possibly putting thousands at risk of serious disease.

On Friday, the hospital announced that patients who were in the hospital between Sept. 1, 2008 and May 7, 2014, may have been given insulin with an injector pen that had been previously used to treat someone else.

About 3,150 patients may have been affected.

“There could be contamination which creates the possibility of disease transmission,” Griffin Hospital President and CEO Patrick Charmel said. But in a statement the hospital said, “At this time there is no evidence that disease transmission has occurred to any patient at Griffin Hospital.”

Administrators at Griffin Hospital discuss the possible misuse of insulin pens, May 16, 2014. (WTNH / Josh Scheinblum)
Administrators at Griffin Hospital discuss the possible misuse of insulin pens, May 16, 2014. (WTNH / Josh Scheinblum)

The hospital recommends that anyone who was treated with an insulin pen during the approximate 6-year span be tested for hepatitis B, hepatitis C, and HIV “as a precautionary measure.” Those tests should be done in the next 30 days. Numbers to call are included below.

Charmel explained why the hospital put out the alert.

“A nurse may have taken the injector, meant and prescribed for (one patient) and when a new patient was admitted to the unit and their pen didn’t yet come up from the pharmacy, they may have taken the injector with a clean needle cartridge and used it for another patient.”

Charmel said the hospital first became aware of the problem last week after a nurse contacted a pharmacist and expressed concern over how the pen was being used.

The hospital said in its statement that “the possibility exists that a pen’s insulin cartridge can be contaminated through the backflow of blood or skin cells from one patient, and thus could potentially transmit an infection if used on another patient.”

Dr. Howard Quentzel, chief of infectious diseases at Griffin, said the first course of action was to obtain baseline testing.

“There is the potential for what we call a window period where we may not in the first couple of weeks to months, may not pick up evidence of an infection,” Quentzel said.

(RELATED: How an insulin pen works, the dangers of misuse)

“We provided education,” Charmel said. “In retrospect, could we have provided more? The answer has to be yes.”

Anyone with questions can call a special hotline at the hospital — 203.732.1411 and 203.732.1340 — between 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. any day of the week. Letters are being sent to patients who may be affected. Below is a copy of that letter, along with fact sheet about the issue.

“I get needles put in me all the time here,” said Grace Keene of Ansonia. “People come here a lot, they want to make sure they’re taken care of.”

News 8′s Josh Scheinblum and Stephanie Simoni contributed to this report.

blog comments powered by Disqus