Griffin Hospital says insulin pens misused

Griffin Hospital announced today that it has identified the possibility that insulin pens ordered for patients hospitalized between September 1, 2008 and May 7, 2014 may have been misused, exposing those patients to possible disease transmission. Insulin pens are injector devices that contain a multi-dose vial of insulin, also referred to as an insulin cartridge. Thousands of hospitals across the nation utilize insulin pens. The pens are intended for single person use only and are designed to allow for the delivery of multiple doses. The single-use, retractable needle that attaches to the insulin pen is removable, allowing reuse of the pen-like injector with a new sterile safety needle for each use.

At Griffin Hospital, insulin pens were used for hospitalized patients only.  To the extent that improper use of pens did occur, the hospital is certain that pen needles were not reused because Griffin Hospital has always used safety needles that prevent a needle from being used for more than a single injection.  However, even when using a new needle, 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. The risk of disease transmission is considered extremely small. At this point, the hospital’s review has not identified any specific patient who has received an insulin injection from another patient’s insulin pen, and there is no evidence of any transmission of blood-borne infection due to insulin pen misuse. However, because Griffin Hospital identified improper use of the pens, the hospital recommends that patients hospitalized at Griffin between September 1, 2008 and May 7, 2014 for whom an insulin pen was ordered, be tested for hepatitis B virus (HBV), hepatitis C virus (HCV), and human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) as a precautionary measure. The hospital is recommending that these patients be tested within the next 30 days.

Griffin Hospital has established dedicated phone lines that will be staffed from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m., seven days a week. The hot line numbers are 203.732.1411 and 203.732.1340. Patients that call these phone lines can coordinate an appointment for confidential testing or speak with a nurse or pharmacist to answer any questions. There will be no charge for any screenings, testing, or counseling provided by Griffin Hospital related to this matter, and testing results will be provided within seven days to patients and their primary care physicians.

At this time there is no evidence that disease transmission has occurred to any patient at Griffin Hospital resulting from improper use of insulin pens, and the hospital has not identified any patients that in fact received an insulin injection from an insulin pen used on another patient. Regardless, Griffin Hospital is notifying patients, by first-class and certified mail, for whom an insulin pen was ordered during their hospitalization on or after September 1, 2008 and before May 7, 2014 and offering free and confidential testing for hepatitis B, hepatitis C and HIV. The hospital is strongly encouraging these patients to be tested within 30 days of receipt of their letters.

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