Infections Tied to Reused Medication Vials

Infections Tied to Reused Medication VialsInfections are being linked to reused medication vials, according to media reports.

Federal authorities are blaming the issue on a lack of appropriately packaged medications that are placing patients at risks, said MSNBC. Authorities warned that clinics might be giving injections to more than one patient from vials intended for use in only one patient.

To date, 10 patients in Arizona and Delaware had to be hospitalized over significant infections they contracted when injected by clinic staff who dosed them with medication from single-use drug vials, a growing issue, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), said MSNBC. Worse, another patient was found dead at home after having received a tainted infection, although there is no proof that the infection was the cause of death.

MSNBC pointed out that, last April, staff at a single clinic in Delaware, infected nine patients with bacteria from their bodies. The CDC said there have been 20 cases like this since 2008.

According to the Center, staff at both of the clinics allege that they were unable to obtain vials for multiple uses. Because of shortages in multi-use vials, clinic staff diluted single-dose packages, using them on multiple patients, spreading infections. “Medications labeled as ‘single dose’ or ‘single use’ typically are preservative-free and should be dedicated for single-patient use to protect patients from infection risks,” wrote investigators in the CDC’s weekly report on death and disease, said MSNBC.

In an Arizona clinic, staff diluted a vial of contrast agent, which is used to clarify X-rays when prepping patients for injections of strong pain medications; 10 patients were injected with one diluted vial, said MSNBC. Three patients became infected with the serious, dangerous, and sometimes deadly methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), and all of the patients required hospitalization—one for 41 days—for meningitis, blood infections or abscesses. “The fourth recipient of diluted contrast from the afternoon vial was found deceased at home, six days after treatment at the clinic. The cause of death was reported as multiple-drug over­dose; however, invasive MRSA infection could not be ruled out,” the health officials wrote, said MSNBC.

In Delaware, last March, seven patients required hospitalization—for three to eight days each—after they received injections for joint pain a one orthopedic clinic. “When a national drug shortage disrupted the supply of 10 mL single dose vials, office staff members began using 30 mL single dose vials of bupivacaine for multiple patients,” the investigators wrote, according to MSNBC. A CDC test revealed that all of the patients were infected with the same S. aureus strain, which also matched a strain in two of the clinic workers. The workers were colonized with the bacteria—the germ, while living in their noses or on their skin, did not make them sick—MSNBC explained.

“This report reminds health-care providers of the serious consequences of multi-patient use of single-dose vials that can occur even when health-care workers believe they are being careful,” the report noted.

As we’ve explained, blood borne diseases can be transmitted when an infected person is given a shot and either the needle or syringe is reused. Microscopic backflow can enter the syringe from the contaminated person and then also enters the medicine vial, which puts other patients receiving that medication at risk from the needle, the syringe, and the drug vial.

We’ve previously written that the CDC announced in 2009 that, based on its decade-long review, over 60,000 patients have been placed at risk for potentially deadly, blood-borne infectious diseases. According to the CDC, over the ten years prior to 2009, tens of thousands of American patients have been asked to undergo hepatitis B virus (HBV) and hepatitis C virus (HCV) testing because proper infection control practices were not followed. The CDC review of outbreak data indicated that, in that prior 10 years, there were 33 identified outbreaks that occurred outside of hospitals in 15 states, with 12 occurring in outpatient clinics, six taking place in hemodialysis centers, and 15 happening in long-term care facilities, for a total of 450 people acquiring HBV or HCV infections.

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