A leaked internal e-mail shows that Olympus Corp., the maker of the medical scopes behind dozens of superbug outbreaks in recent years, advised regulators not to issue a broad warning to hospitals about the scope-related health hazards.
In Europe, the Japanese device maker acknowledged in 2013 that one of its scopes may be behind two dozen superbug infections in two countries. Similar outbreaks were tied to the scopes in U.S. hospitals too, but the company never admitted wrongdoing.
A set of internal e-mails show Olympus told state regulators that a warning to U.S. hospitals is unwarranted despite the concerns in Europe.
Laura Storms Olympus executive in charge of regulatory and clinical affairs in Center Valley, Pa, sent an e-mail to the Japanese medical device producer on Jan 31, 2013.
In the e-mail, Storms was concerned about the situation in Europe and asked the manufacturer whether users should be communicated the information the European branch of Olympus Corp had just communicated to hospitals on the Old Continent.
“No, that’s not necessary,”
replied top Olympus executive Susumu Nishina on Feb 6,2013.
Nishina added that there’s no need for “all users” to learn the information because the level of risk was within “acceptable” parameters based on the Tokyo-based company’s standards. Nevertheless, the executive instructed Storms to inform any individual user that would request the information.
Since 2013, superbug outbreaks were tied to Olympus telescopes in Denver, L.A., Milwaukee and other municipalities. The outbreak resulted in at least 35 deaths after patients were infected with antibiotic-resistant bugs from tainted scopes.
Patients have slammed Olympus with several lawsuits ever since. Patients and their families claim that the device giant’s inaction was behind their loved ones’ deaths.
Federal authorities have also opened an investigation into the company’s practices.
Emails also show that the company’s top management was divided over the proper course of action in the wake of the outbreaks. For instance, U.S. executives often came into conflict with executives in Japan who had the final say on most issues.
The e-mails were unveiled by Kaiser Health News and made public during a lawsuit filed by a patient against the company. The Japanese manufacturer declined to provide any comments on the correspondence or ongoing state and federal investigations.
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