Doctors use the scopes to check the ducts that drain the liver and the gallbladder into the small intestine. The scopes inject dye into the bile and pancreatic ducts. X-rays are then used to “detect blockages, tumors, gallstones and other medical problems and diseases. But the closed-channel duodenoscopes have a serious medical problem of their own that has seriously sickened and contributed to the deaths of patients all over the world. The scopes are easily contaminated with dangerous bacteria.
The scopes’ Japanese manufacturer never disclosed the problem to hospitals or doctors until 2015, although it had known since 2013 that its scopes were extremely difficult to clean and sterilize. Its silence put lives in danger worldwide.
That was the tip of the iceberg
According to the New York Times, it took a year-long U.S. Congressional investigation to reveal the Japanese company’s secret in spite of an American law requiring it to contact the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) within 30 days of learning that its scope “…might have contributed to a death or serious injury.” The law also required the company to contact the federal agency about cases in other countries.
The U.S. Senate’s investigation was kicked off by a cluster of cases in Seattle that began in 2012 involving antibiotic resistance infections that occurred after patients were treated with the Olympus duodenoscopes. The infections also began appearing in hospitals in Pittsburg and Chicago that same year. According to USA Today, they were caused by CRE “….perhaps one of the most feared superbugs because it resists even ‘last defense’ antibiotics…” This family of superbugs kills up to 40 % of the people it infects.
FDA was slow reporting the problem
Not only were American hospitals late in letting patients know what caused their infections, critics say the FDA did not react immediately when it began receiving the reports. U.S. Senator Patty Murray, (D-Washington), head of the investigating committee, was among those slamming the manufacturer and the FDA. USA Today reported last March that until recently most doctors and hospitals were unaware of the deadly contamination problem when using Olympus duodenoscopes manufactured by the Japanese company.
According to USA Today’s investigative report, duodenoscopes can transmit all sorts of bacteria since their many mobile parts make them hard to clean and sterilize. Hospitals are now tackling the problem in several ways, including quarantining all scopes after they have been used and testing them for bacteria once they’ve been cleaned.
Although minor infections can be difficult to detect, anyone who is suffering from an infection of any sort after being treated with a duodenoscope should contact the Wayne Wright law firm. The firm specializes in representing people whose illnesses have been caused by the negligence of manufacturers who knowingly allowed their dangerous products to be used by unsuspecting doctors on their patients.