3 May 2014

Aust pulls anaesthetic as patient dies

10:46 pm on 3 May 2014

A common anaesthetic has been recalled across Australia after three hospital patients in South Australia contracted a blood infection.

Public and private hospitals on that side of the Tasman are working to secure enough anaesthesia drugs to avoid cancelling elective surgery, after the nationwide recall of Propofol.

no caption

Photo: AFP

In New Zealand, Propofol has been approved for injection as an anaesthetic since 1985, including in children undergoing surgery.

The Australian Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) on Friday issued a nationwide safety alert for a commonly-used anaesthetic called propofol because of concerns that some vials have been contaminated with bacteria.

Blood infection

Three patients at two separate South Australian hospitals developed a blood infection after receiving the drug last month.

Two of the affected patients have since recovered.

The third patient has died, but SA Health chief public health officer Dr Stephen Christley said he cannot link the death to the contaminated drug.

The TGA quarantined two batches of the anaesthetic feared to contain vials contaminated with bacteria.

Dr Christley said the link between the drug and the patients' illness was identified quickly.

"The cases we've had, it has not been the most significant of bloodstream infections but it is a concern," he said.

"It's an unusual infection and it's important we avoid people being vulnerable to these conditions which is why the TGA's taken the action that it has in quarantining those batches."

Propofol samples are being examined to try to determine the source of the contamination.

Australian hospitals have been advised to avoid using other Propofol batches pending further investigation, unless surgery is absolutely necessary for patient health, and there are no suitable alternative drugs.

Queensland Health said alternative supplies have been sourced, and they are working urgently to secure more to avoid cancelling elective surgery.

The TGA said Propofol was used as a short-acting general anaesthetic in adults, and children aged three years and above.