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U.S. News

California: Hundreds of Syphilis Patients in Los Angeles Got the Wrong Drug

March 22, 2004

On Friday, the Los Angeles Gay & Lesbian Center notified county health officials that it has given the wrong medication to about 300 syphilis patients seeking treatment since 1999. Center clients were administered the penicillin formula Bicillin C-R instead of the higher-dose penicillin formula Bicillin L-A (benzathine penicillin G). The formula given to center clients contains only half the dose of benzathine penicillin G that CDC recommends for treatment of syphilis.

The Gay & Lesbian Center is asking any syphilis patient treated there from 1999 to this month to make an appointment for another assessment and further treatment, if necessary. It is not clear whether patients dispensed the wrong formula would still have syphilis, and people with syphilis can be asymptomatic, said Darrel Cummings, COO of the center.

"This drug looks identical and has the same name, with the exception of the two letters, so in some ways one can understand how this mistake can be made," said Cummings. "After we disclosed the problem, we began identifying the pool of people who might be affected, and we're trying to contact those folks personally."

A county survey has found no similar errors at its 13 syphilis treatment sites, said Dr. Peter Kerndt. "We know in fact it hasn't occurred in any of our public settings," he said.

Back to other news for March 22, 2004

Adapted from:
Los Angeles Times
03.20.04; Lisa Richardson

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This article was provided by CDC National Prevention Information Network. It is a part of the publication CDC HIV/Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update.
See Also
Syphilis -- a Dreadful Disease on the Move
Syphilis Fact Sheet
Basic Questions and Answers About Syphilis and Men Who Have Sex With Men (MSM)
More News and Research on Syphilis in Western U.S. States