Buffalo VA may have been exposed to hepatitis, HIV

More than 700 patients at the Buffalo VA Medical Center may have been exposed to hepatitis B, hepatitis C or HIV because of the reuse of insulin pens on multiple people.

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs announced on Friday that the inadvertent reuse of the insulin delivery devices occurred between October 19, 2010 and November 1, 2012. Of the 716 patients who may have been exposed to the reused insulin pens, 570 of the patients are still living, the Buffalo News reports.

"There is a very small chance that some patients could have been exposed to the Hepatitis B virus, the Hepatitis C virus, or HIV, based on practices identified at the facility," the DVA said, according to the Buffalo News.

The insulin pens were discovered without patient labels on them during a routine pharmacy inspection on November 1. The lack of labeling indicated that they may have been reused.

"Although the pen needles were always changed, an insulin pen may have been used on more than one patient," Evangeline Conley, a spokeswoman for the hospital, said, according to the Buffalo News. "Once this was identified, immediate action was taken to ensure the insulin pens were labeled and only used according to pharmaceutical guidelines. The hospital immediately changed its procedures to prevent insulin pens from being reused."

Robert A. Petzel, the undersecretary for health at the DVA, said that while the chance of passing infection is very low, the department is testing everybody to make sure.

The VA has yet to identify any patients who were infected at the Buffalo facility through the repeated use of insulin pens.

"What has happened can only be described as the grossest of irresponsible and dangerous behavior," Sen. Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) said, according to the Buffalo News. "The VA must immediately deal with the health of those that were victimized, and promptly launch a top-to-bottom investigation to root out how this happened and tell us what is being done to prevent it from ever happening again, in Buffalo or elsewhere in the country."