More than 700 patients at the Buffalo Veterans Administration Center may have been exposed to HIV, hepatitis B or hepatitis C because of accidental reuse of insulin pens, according to a hospital statement and published reports.
Authorities told The Buffalo News there is a ‘very small risk’ for the diabetic patients who may have been exposed to the reused insulin pens – but not the needles – between October 19, 2010 and November 2012.
The VA memo obtained by the News said the problem was discovered by a routine pharmacy inspection last November 1. The News first published the report on its website Friday. The VA also notified western New York members of Congress of the possible exposure.
In a statement to The Associated Press, VA spokeswoman Evangeline Conley said the hospital ‘recently discovered that in some cases, insulin pens were not labeled for individual patients.’
“I was horrified,” the wife of a Marine Corps veteran who was possibly exposed told The News.
“I started crying, figuring what could be wrong with my husband. I trusted the VA. He trusted the VA. To find out they weren’t labeling the insulin pens, and they were sharing them – it’s horrifying.”
After seeing the VA’s memo, Rep. Chris Collins, a Republican who represents the Buffalo area, said he spoke with Dr. Robert A. Petzel, undersecretary for health at the Department of Veterans Affairs.
‘His thought was that it’s a very, very low chance of passing infection,’ Collins said. ‘But it’s not out of the realm of possibility, and that’s why they’re testing everyone,’ Collins told the News.