Are New Jersey Patients At Risk From Medication Errors

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A hospital in a neighboring state has recently been in the media for a potentially serious case of insulin pen roulette. According to reports, Olean General Hospital is the second to have potentially exposed patients to HIV or hepatitis strains B and C. The mode for this exposure was insulin pens that were mistakenly reused. This case demonstrates how easily those medication errors can happen. Because this is the second hospital involved in a nearby state, this issue has the potential to affect New Jersey diabetes patients.

The insulin pens in question are designed for multiple uses, but only by the same patient. Olean staff reports that the needles were changed between patients, but that does not negate the possibility that blood-borne pathogens could remain in the insulin inside the pen. Although it is said that the risk for contamination is low, the hospital is not taking chances.

Letters have been mailed to more than 1,900 patients who may have been exposed to these pathogens due to the improper use of the insulin pens. The hospital is urging patients to schedule blood testing to ensure that they have not been exposed. This case of potential insulin pen negligence follows warnings from federal health agencies, such as the Centers for Disease Control, that have been circulating for years.

Medication errors of this magnitude may affect many New Jersey patients and their families. Even the smallest chance that someone may be infected with a life-changing illness is too great. New Jersey has personal injury and medical malpractice laws that protect patients who suffer injury or illness due to medication errors like these. After they schedule their blood test, the patients in this case may decide that their next step will be obtaining information about their rights.

Source: Huffington Post, “Olean General Hospital Warns 1,915 Patients Of Possible HIV Exposure From Insulin Pens,” Jan. 24, 2013

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