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CDC HIV/AIDS/Viral Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update

Company: Jail Medication Mix-Up Rare


Boston Globe (09.26.01) - Thursday, September 27, 2001

The private company that provides medical care to inmates at the Suffolk County jail said the drug mix-up that sent five prisoners to the hospital was a "highly unusual" mistake. On Sunday morning, inmates who were supposed to get a prescribed amount of Viracept, an anti-viral drug, instead were given high doses of Elavil, an anti-depressant, by Correctional Medical Services staff. Three of the five inmates required hospitalization but by Tuesday two had returned to the Suffolk County House of Correction, according to Richard Lombardi, spokesperson for Suffolk County Sheriff Richard J. Rouse.

"We believe it is highly unusual" for inmates to be given the wrong drug, said Ken Fields, spokesperson for Correctional Medical Services. "We're reviewing to see if this kind of situation may have occurred" in the past. "I'm not aware of any [happening] in the entire state of Massachusetts." But state Department of Correction spokesperson Justin Latini said after speaking with the department's medical director that drug mix-ups have happened in the state prisons, where 5,002 inmates get prescription drugs daily. He said no inmate has been killed by a drug mix-up.

On Tuesday, the state Department of Public Health (DPH) and the Suffolk district attorney's office said they are reviewing the mix-up. The DPH will look at the handling of prescription drugs, but will not scrutinize the medical issues because the prison is not licensed by the DPH, said department spokesperson Roseanne Pawelec. Fields said the company will change procedures if deemed necessary following its investigation. "We will carefully evaluate what happened and try to take steps to prevent it from occurring in the future," he said.


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