6 cancer patients infected after nurse diluted injections with tap water in 2018, report finds

Six cancer patients at Buffalo, N.Y.-based Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center developed a rare bacterial infection after a nurse gave them opioid injections diluted with tap water, according to a report published Aug. 7 in The New England Journal of Medicine and reported in The Washington Post.

The nurse tampered with the syringes so she could take some of the opioids herself. Six of the patients were infected with the rare bacteria Sphingomonas paucimobilis in June and July of 2018. An investigation later revealed that syringes of hydromorphone, a class of opioids, contained the bacteria. All of the infected patients were treated with antibiotics and none died from the infection, though three died later from unrelated causes. 

The nurse's employers accused her of drug diversion, or illegally using medication intended for other people, in a July 2018 meeting. She was formally charged with stealing pain medications in June 2019. Her attorney did not respond to The Washington Post's request for comment.

The hospital said it has taken "significant organizational steps" to prevent and detect future incidents of drug diversion, according to The Buffalo News

Click here to read more about the case against the nurse accused of drug diversion at Roswell.

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