The Virginia Mason Medical Center has joined a lawsuit against Olympus America, the medical scope manufacturer linked to a “superbug” outbreak.
According to Reuters, at least 32 patients at Virginia Mason Medical Center were infected with a multi drug-resistant E. coli bacteria spread through contaminated scopes between 2012 and 2014. At least 11 of those patients eventually died.
The lawsuit against Olympus America began with Theresa Bigler, the wife of one of the deceased. Bigler stated that her husband, Richard Bigler, died in 2013 from pancreatic cancer, along with an E. coli bacterial infection contracted from one of the faulty medical scopes.
On Monday, May 11, Virginia Mason said it had joined Bigler’s lawsuit because Olympus America knew its duodenoscopes, which are used to treat illness in the bile ducts and pancreas, could contain germs even after being cleaned to federal and manufacturer guidelines.
The UCLA Ronald Reagan Medical Center also had issues with the Olympus America medical scopes. Between October 2014 and January 2015, UCLA estimated to have as many as 180 patients exposed and to the CRE bacteria carried on the scopes, along with seven cases of infection and two deaths.
Andrew Ross, the head of gastroenterology at Virginia Mason, said, “Olympus failed to inform our organization about this safety risk associated with its product. Their silence on this important issue was unethical, irresponsible and put patient lives at risk.”
Olympus America said that it was “taking this matter extremely seriously” in a recent statement.
Spokesman Mark Miller also gave the following statement regarding the investigation: “We are continuing our investigation into the reports at Virginia Mason to be able to provide a more thorough and balanced perspective on the issues including potential causes of the infection.”
Olympus America has claimed to have been working with authorities, including the Food and Drug Administration, which regulates the medical devices, to “enhance safeguards” with respect to sterilization.