Dirty medical devices put patients at grave risk

Recently, there’s been a lot of noise in the media about the UKs National Health Service (NHS) literally falling apart — overworked junior doctors, understaffed A&E departments and patients literally dying on the doorsteps of medical facilities.

Let’s face it, when you go into a hospital, the least you expect is a certain standard of care… and to leave alive and well. But it’s not just in the UK where patients are drawing the short straw when it comes to medical care.

Recently, a US Senate health committee reported that hundreds of patients across America have been killed and hundreds of others became gravely ill after doctors performed procedures using tainted medical devices.

Many of these devices, like duodenoscopes, are stuffed down your throat all the way to your small intestine. In one case, these duodenoscopes weren’t properly sterilized and were contaminated with the drug-resistant CRE bacteria. It’s the deadliest superbug known, with a 50 per cent death-rate.

And what the Senate health committee is nothing short of shocking:

• The scope’s leading manufacturer, Olympus Corps, never properly tested it; and when it learned of the flaw in its intricate design, it failed to alert hospitals or regulators.
• Not a single hospital that had infection outbreaks sent out a required alert to medical authorities.
• The American Food and Drug Administration (FDA) – which also regulates medical devices – kept the outbreaks a secret from the public until The Los Angeles Times broke the news about the deadly outbreaks in California and the resulting court cases.

After the story broke, the FDA continued to downplay the problem, and when the agency did address it, they simply issued a notice to hospitals that the duodenocopes could be difficult to clean.

They neglected to mention that the most recent versions of the scopes weren’t FDA-approved, or that a “dirty” duodenoscope could infect you with an untreatable illness. And they definitely didn’t own up to the fact that members of the industry may have known about the problem for over 20 years without saying anything.

Clearly, we are all at the mercy of a hopelessly broken system.

So the next time you’re scheduled for an endoscopy, whether you live in the UK or US, do your homework. Choose your medical facility carefully, checking to see whether they’ve already reported a superbug outbreak. Ask the medical staff about the equipment they’ll be using.

Wishing you the best of health,

Dr. Glenn S. Rothfeld
Editor
Nutrition & Healing
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Sources:

“Tainted medical scopes have sickened hundreds, Senate investigation finds,” The Washington Post, Jan. 13, 2015

Widening superbug outbreak raises questions for FDA, manufacturers, published online, washingtonpost.com, 05.03.2015

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