Due to a shortage of certain prescription medications, some patients may find themselves at risk. Manufacturing problems have caused these kinds of shortages intermittently since 2007. In order to continue treating patients, some clinics and other healthcare providers are diluting single-dose medications and using them in several patients.
NBC News reports that since April there have been at least 20 patients in Arizona and Delaware that have been
infected by medications. The medicines they were given came from vials that were meant to be used once. Because there are insufficient quantities of these medications available, staff at clinics in both states have resorted to using the one-time use vials many times over. This most recent spate of
medicines causing infections is just one of 20 such incidents that have occurred over the past five years.
Medications that are labeled as single doses are typically preservative free. According to CDC investigators, this means they should only be used on one patient to prevent the potential spread of infection. A clinic in Arizona diluted one such vial of a contrast solution used to make x-rays clearer. Several of the ten patients who were given this drug contracted serious diseases after receiving the medication. Three of the patients were hospitalized after contracting MRSA, a kind of drug-resistant staph infection that can often be deadly. They were also treated for meningitis, blood infections and abcesses, with one hospital visit lasting 41 days. A fourth patient was
found dead after receiving a drug injection.
The decisions to reuse medication vials that were meant to be used only once were made in an effort to continue treating patients despite a shortage of proper drugs. However, these medication errors have caused serious illnesses. According to the CDC, there are proper procedures to be followed when using smaller vials for multiple patients. The CDC and state health officials in both Arizona and Delaware agree staff in these clinics need special training to prevent further
drug mistakes and illnesses.