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Patients Exposed to Illness After Boston EMS Paramedic Tampers With Painkillers

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Up to 57 patients in Boston may be in danger after officials discovered that an EMS paramedic was tampering with sedatives and painkillers. The patients may have been exposed to blood-borne illnesses in the summer of 2011 when they were treated by the EMS paramedic suspected of tampering. All of the potentially affected individuals have been called and follow-up letters are expected to go out in the mail today offering free medical testing for infectious diseases.

The EMS paramedic involved in the investigation has not been identified and authorities will not provide any further details on the matter. The executive director of Boston's ambulance service said in an interview that the paramedic is not believed to carry any infectious diseases, but also acknowledged that officials do not know for sure. Officials are also unsure how the medications were tampered with, although both sedatives and painkillers are administered via injection. She also noted that two paramedics are required to be present when patients are given those medications, so officials are unclear how the paramedic suspected of tampering was able to thwart these regulations.

This isn't the first time that a healthcare worker has been caught tampering with medications. Just this year, a medical worker was arrested for spreading Hepatitis C at Exeter Hospital in New Hampshire after tampering with fentanyl, a narcotic painkiller. Fentanyl is one of the most commonly stolen prescription drugs because it is easy to obtain, get high quickly, but continue functioning since the effects wear off quickly. Unfortunately, prescription drug addiction is often overlooked and when it filters directly into the medical system and has the potential to affect vulnerable patients, it is especially important to address the problem.