Major Israeli hospital admits giving cancer patients expired chemotherapy drugs

Rambam Medical Center apologizes after report reveals that for 1.5 years in 2016-7, dates were forged on medicines set to be destroyed and then given to patients, including kids

Illustrative photo of a cancer patient receiving chemotherapy treatment. (via Shutterstock)
Illustrative photo of a cancer patient receiving chemotherapy treatment. (via Shutterstock)

For more than a year, cancer patients in the biggest hospital in northern Israel were systematically given expired, faulty chemotherapy medication, the medical center has admitted, issuing an apology.

The alarming statement by the Rambam hospital in Haifa came in response to a report Wednesday by the Yedioth Ahronoth daily, which quoted current and former employees on details of the case.

According to a snippet of the paper’s investigation, which will be published in full on Friday, for 1.5 years in 2016-2017, Rambam’s cytotoxic lab at the medical center’s new oncology department kept medicines after they expired and in many cases forged the dates and serial numbers on their packages.

The drugs were then transferred to medical staff and administered to patients. It is impossible to determine how many people received those medicines, who they are and what condition they in today.

In some cases, the drugs had been expired for many months before they were used, the report said.

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

The employees testified that there was disorder in the way medicines were kept, some were made against the rules, and packages meant to be destroyed went missing. One worker filed a police complaint on the matter two weeks ago, according to the report.

“In 2016 the lab moved to a new building, where I started seeing all sorts of illogical things that made no sense to me,” one employee was quoted as saying. “I saw many expired drugs were being stored. I understood they should be destroyed, so why were they being kept? I myself brought these medicines to the departments, day care centers, chemotherapy department and also to children’s wards.”

“This keeps me up at night,” said another employee, one of the people in charge, who knew about the matter in real time.

“We can’t know whether it harmed the people and children who got them,” another worker said. “A person comes for treatment with their kid or mom or dad, and trusts the hospital, only to be given expired medicine.”

Rambam confirmed many of the details in the report.

“During 2017 the entire pharmaceutical field was examined, and as a result the hospital management began a comprehensive and lengthy organizational change,” Rambam told the newspaper.

“Immediately upon receiving Yedioth’s query, a comprehensive probe was conducted and it revealed that there is indeed truth in the claims regarding 2016,” it added. “Rambam’s management is sorry for such cases and would like to express its apologies to patients and their relatives.”

Doctors arrested for internship forgery

Also on Wednesday, police said they arrested three doctors from a medical center in Haifa on suspicion of falsifying records during the internships of two of them.

Hebrew media reported that the doctors were from the Rambam Medical Center.

According to police, a doctor at the hospital helped the two interns forge documents stating they were present at surgeries which they didn’t attend so that they could receive certification for a medical specialization.

One of the doctors was arrested at Ben Gurion Aiport and the other two were detained in the Haifa area.


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