Size of vials didn’t cause hepatitis outbreak

To the editor:

Although I have great sympathy for Harry Chanin, the headmaster of The Meadows School who was infected with hepatitis C after a colonoscopy at an endoscopy center, I feel that the argument he is making against the pharmaceutical companies he is currently suing is misguided at best (Tuesday edition).

The Review-Journal noted that, “The lawsuit claims the companies made and sold vials of propofol that were much larger than needed for colonoscopies, which tempted medical workers to reuse vials among patients instead of throwing away unused anesthetic.”

As a medical doctor, I take exception with the argument that the size of a medicine bottle could “tempt” me (or any other physician, for that matter) to abandon everything that I have been taught about universal precautions when it comes to preventing and spreading infections between my patients.

Doctors use multidose vials every day. The flu shot that physicians administer every flu season comes in just such a reusable vial. I have never been “tempted” to use the same syringe over and over on multiple patients because the vial had multiple doses. What nonsense.

The doctors and nurses who committed these offenses at the Endoscopy Center of Southern Nevada are to blame for Mr. Chanin’s infection, and they should pay handsomely. These practitioners were not drawn into some trap by a pharmaceutical company based on the size of a bottle. These practitioners were motivated by greed. They reused the same syringes on multiple patients, which caused the infections.

Just using a different syringe on each patient (at a cost of pennies per patient) could have prevented this whole mess. The jury should reject this argument.

Mark E. McKenzie, M.D.

Las Vegas

The writer is with Valley Hospital’s internal medicine residency program.

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