Cancer-suffering girl’s infection traced to sealed morphine bag

Cancer-suffering girl’s infection traced to sealed morphine bag

Health Ministry opens inquiry after Rambam Hospital says bacteria that apparently caused infection found in Teva Pharmaceuticals package

Sue Surkes is The Times of Israel's environment reporter.

The entrance to the Rambam Medical Center in Haifa. (Moshe Shai/Flash90)
The entrance to the Rambam Medical Center in Haifa. (Moshe Shai/Flash90)

The Health Ministry opened an inquiry after a blood infection in a 13-year-old cancer sufferer was apparently traced to a sealed infusion bag of morphine supplied by Teva Pharmaceutical Industries.

The girl, who is being treated at home intravenously, arrived at Rambam Hospital in the northern coastal city of Haifa complaining of weakness and a high fever, the Ynet news site reported Monday.

The oncology department, which is supervising her treatment, asked for a sample from the infusion bag, which contained the liquid morphine painkiller the girl had been prescribed.

“A 13-year old girl with a malignant disease is being treated by the pediatric oncology unit at the Ruth [Rappaport] Children’s Hospital at Rambam,” a statement from the hospital said.

“The teenager, who receives treatment at home, including intravenously, arrived sick a few days ago with symptoms suggesting a blood infection. Blood samples were taken from the girl and these proved that she had a bacterial infection.

“The family was asked to bring the infusion bags from home as part of a thorough investigation to identify the source of the infection. A test of the sealed infusion bag supplied by an external drugs company revealed the same bacteria that were apparently responsible for the infection.”

Illustrative picture of an infusion bag for intravenous drug dispensation. (Nuiiko/iStock by Getty Images)

The results were reported to the Health Ministry and the girl recovered and returned home, the statement continued.

The ministry said in a statement to Ynet that it would be investigating the incident with Teva.

A statement from Teva said that the liquid morphine was produced by the Rafa pharmaceutical company and prepared at a Teva facility in the southern port city of Ashdod.

There was ongoing inspection at the Ashdod plant, the statement continued, and there was no indication that harmful bacteria were present. The bacteria could have come from “a great number of sources, among them medical equipment,” Teva went on, saying it hoped that others involved in the incident would conduct their own tests to identify the bacteria’s source.

A statement from Rafa said the company produced quality pharmaceuticals at an advanced facility that met the strictest European and Israeli guidelines.

“The relevant products underwent final sterilization before they left the factory,” the statement added, claiming that a check of all the data pertaining to the product’s release from the plant showed that it was “sent from the factory in a sterile, safe and completely proper fashion.”

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