Anything for profits: Olympus told U.S. executives no broad scope warning needed despite superbug outbreaks
Chad Terhune reports in the LA Times:
Faced with superbug outbreaks in three countries by early 2013, Japanese device giant Olympus Corp. told U.S. executives not to issue a broad warning to American hospitals about potentially deadly infections from tainted medical scopes, internal emails show.
After two dozen infections were reported in French and Dutch hospitals, the company alerted European customers in January 2013 that a scope it manufactured could become contaminated.
A top Olympus executive in the U.S. grew concerned because the company was investigating a similar outbreak at a Pittsburgh hospital.
“Should [we] also be communicating to our users the information that [Olympus Europe] is communicating to their European users?” Laura Storms, vice president of regulatory and clinical affairs in Center Valley, Pa., asked in an email to Tokyoheadquarters on Jan. 31, 2013.
No, that’s not necessary, said Susumu Nishina, the company’s chief manager for market quality administration in Tokyo in a Feb. 6, 2013, reply.
It is “not need[ed] to communicate to all the users actively,” Nishina wrote, because a company assessment of the risk to patients found it to be “acceptable.” However, he added that Storms should respond to questions from a customer.
Outbreaks of infection at hospitals in Los Angeles, Milwaukee, Denver and other cities followed over the next three years. All told, at least 35 people at U.S. hospitals have died since 2013 – three of them at UCLA’s Ronald Reagan Medical Center – after suffering infections from contaminated gastrointestinal scopes manufactured by Olympus, according to hospitals and public health officials.
Olympus’ actions – and inaction – are being closely examined in lawsuits by American patients and their families who contend that the manufacturer was negligent and might have prevented the outbreaks and deaths had it been more forthcoming. In addition, federal prosecutors are investigating Olympus’ handling of the infections – and the emails could become crucial evidence in any future case.
The company’s internal emails reveal conflicts inside Olympus over how to respond to a growing threat to patient safety, pitting U.S. executives against their superiors in Japan who had the final say. The emails were filed in a Pennsylvania court this month as part of a patient lawsuit and obtained by Kaiser Health News working in collaboration with the Los Angeles Times. . .
This is very reminiscent of the Tanaka airbag cover up.