Olympus Medical Scope Linked to Superbug Outbreaks, Deaths
Posted on behalf of D'Amico & Pettinicchi, LLC on Dec 22, 2015 in Product Liability
A commonly used medical scope is at the center of a controversy involving superbugs, patient deaths and a corporate cover-up by medical device manufacturer Olympus.
The medical scopes at question are small cameras attached to flexible tubes that can be inserted into a patient’s mouth and threaded down into their digestive tract. A selling point of the devices is that they do not require invasive surgery to diagnose cancer, gallstones and other conditions.
However, a defective rubber ring in the scope allows blood and tissue to get trapped inside, spreading bacteria from patient to patient. The area where the tissue gets trapped is in a part that was supposed to remain sealed and did not require disassembly to clean. In fact, this was the central marketing angle of the new line of scopes.
Doctors and health officials are especially concerned about the spread of bacteria associated with the scopes, because they have been identified as “superbugs,” bacteria that is resistant to current antibiotic treatment.
At least 21 people have died in the U.S. as a result of the defective medical device, with over two dozen reported illnesses in three U.S. cities. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) reported 10 outbreaks related to the scope.
Olympus first discovered the problem in 2012, when an outbreak occurred in the Netherlands. But they continued to sell device, and failed to warn hospitals in the U.S. of the problem.
In three separate complaints from hospitals in Pittsburgh, Seattle and Los Angeles, the company blamed the hospitals for improper cleaning methods. The company also failed to notify the hospital staff or FDA of the outbreaks that were already reported. Instead, they treated each case as an isolated incident.
Rather than addressing the problem or recalling the product, the company continued to sell the devices, insisting that the hospitals need to clean them more thoroughly after each procedure. They even took advantage of this to sell more scopes and additional cleaning equipment to hospitals.
In February 2015, the company released a public disclosure acknowledging 95 complaints were issued for its TJF-Q180V duodenoscope. An executive whistleblower from the company recently spoke with a reporter from the Los Angeles Times and revealed that the company knew about the problem but didn’t act.
The reported deaths and illnesses are only the tip of the iceberg. Over 700,000 procedures using these devices are performed annually in the U.S.
The product liability attorneys at D'Amico & Pettinicchi are currently researching legal action against Olympus as a result of these defective medical devices. Contact us today for a free consultation. We will fight to get you the justice you deserve.