Connecticut hospital warns of insulin pen problem

A Connecticut hospital is urging more than 3,000 patients to be tested for hepatitis and HIV after discovering that insulin pens may have been improperly used on more than one patient.

Griffin Hospital in Derby said there is no evidence that misuse of the pens led to any disease transmissions, but patients should be tested for hepatitis B, hepatitis C and HIV as a precaution. It said the risk of disease transmission is extremely small.

Federal health agencies have been warning against sharing insulin pens for several years. The Food and Drug Administration issued an alert in March 2009 after learning that more than 2,000 patients may have been exposed at a Texas hospital between 2007 and 2009.

Griffin Hospital said in a news release that needles were not used on more than one patient.

"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 hospital said.

The retractable needle that attaches to the insulin pen is removable, allowing reuse of the pen-like injector.

The notification letters were sent to more than 3,100 patients who were hospitalized between September 2008 and last week, and for whom an insulin pen was ordered. The hospital said it was "strongly encouraging" patients to be tested within 30 days of receiving the letters.
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