Congressman calls on Japanese prosecutors to probe Olympus over scope infections

September 2, 2016
In The News

A Los Angeles congressman is calling for Japanese prosecutors to investigate Olympus Corp. for not warning American hospitals that its medical scope was transferring lethal bacteria to patients.

In an Aug. 29 letter, Rep. Ted Lieu (D-Torrance) asked Secretary of State John Kerry to request that Japanese authorities probe the Tokyo-based manufacturer for civil or criminal misconduct.

Lieu cited stories by The Times that have detailed that Olympus was told by experts in 2012 that the design of a device called a duodenoscope was flawed. The company warned European hospitals about the possibility of patient infections, but not those in the U.S.

Internal company emails uncovered in a lawsuit brought by a patient show that an Olympus employee in the U.S. asked her superiors in Tokyo in early 2013 whether the firm should alert American hospitals. The Japanese executives said no broad warning was necessary, though the employee should respond to questions from a customer.

Overall, as many as 350 patients at 41 medical facilities worldwide were infected or exposed to contaminated scopes made by Olympus or two other companies from January 2010 to October 2015, according to the Food and Drug Administration.

“The company intentionally led a campaign to mislead the federal government, hospitals, and patients,” Lieu wrote. “We need investigations of the Japanese parent company because that is where the order to hide and mislead was given.”

An Olympus spokesman could not be reached immediately for comment.