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Released on Aug 9, 2019

GI Societies Respond to New York Times Article on Duodenoscopes

[Please also read our full statement on this topic.]

To the Editor: The article “These Medical Devices Are Inserted Into 500,000 Patients Each Year — But Are Tough to Sterilize” by Roni Caryn Rabin largely understates the value of duodenoscopes and the procedure they are used for, endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography (ERCP). This is a potentially life-saving procedure for hundreds of thousands of patients each year suffering from diseases of the pancreas, bile duct and gallbladder. When a doctor recommends ERCP, it often is because the patient is gravely ill and the benefits of the procedure far outweigh the risks. ERCPs also spare patients much more invasive and dangerous alternatives, including surgery. “Withdrawal” of these instruments from the marketplace is simply not feasible.

We agree that identifying safe and effective solutions that eliminate risk of infection transmission is a top priority. This cannot happen overnight: we cannot adopt a new technology such as disposable scopes without first understanding the new risks we may be introducing to our patients. Our medical societies have been working closely with FDA and industry to identify and properly vet potential solutions. At the same time, hospitals, medical societies and government agencies at all levels continue to pursue best practices to get infection rates as close to zero as possible. Vigilance has been raised and infection rates have improved. Patients who require ERCP should discuss with their physician the risks and benefits.

Sincerely,

John J. Vargo II, MD, MPH, FASGE
President, American Society for Gastrointestinal Endoscopy

Sunanda V. Kane, MD, MSPH, FACG
President, American College of Gastroenterology

Hashem B. El-Serag, MD, MPH, AGAF
President, American Gastroenterological Association

Lea Anne Myers MSN, RN, CGRN
President, Society of Gastroenterology Nurses and Associates