FDA Urged to Ban Medical Use of Latex Gloves

Cheryl Clark, for HealthLeaders Media , April 27, 2011

The letter says that in the FDA's 1999 explanation of reasons why it would not impose a ban on latex gloves and cornstarch, it estimated the increased cost to the healthcare industry of $64 million per year to purchase alternative products. However, Wolfe and Carome said that because so many hospitals have already made the transition, there is a bigger market and costs have significantly dropped.

In an interview, Carome said that he believes "the FDA recognizes that this is a serious problem. But pressure from the rubber industry in the late 1990s played a role." And while the FDA did list reasons for not ordering a ban, "we think their arguments are flawed."

Gina Pugliese, Vice President of the Premier Healthcare Alliance Safety Institute, affiliated with Premier purchasing alliance, says that many hospitals continue using latex because many doctors and surgeons prefer it because of its tactile sensation for specific procedures.

But other hospitals "are phasing out latex" because of those issues. "Children's hospitals are the first ones to go latex-free, as has the Cleveland Clinic."

Cost, she says, is no longer as much of a concern the two products are priced similarly. In fact, she says, only 15% of hospitals use latex. Some surgeons continue to prefer powder-free latex gloves "but there is a growing trend to non-latex, e.g. polyisoprene, though they cost twice as much."

Even if the products are more expensive, Wolfe and Carome say, studies at major medical centers that made the switch such as Geisinger indicate greatly reduced workers' compensation claims for latex-related illnesses since transitioning to powder-free latex gloves.

"These studies indicate that healthcare facilities are likely to benefit financially by transitioning to powder-free, latex-free surgeons' and patient examination gloves as the result of decreased workers' compensation claims, employee sick days, occupational health clinic visits, and early retirements due to permanent disability related to latex allergies."

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1 comments on "FDA Urged to Ban Medical Use of Latex Gloves"

hcproinc (4/27/2011 at 2:33 PM)
Dear Ms. Clark: I thought to advise you that the price of raw latex on the world market has exploded. That has translated to exponentially higher costs for health care providers. I can tell you that I have seen quarterly price increases in the 70 to 80% range. In fact, Nitrile gloves are now less costly than any latex glove; newer alternatives such as flexible, stretch vinyl have superior qualities to latex. We first saw price increases in latex when the Olympic Games were in China. China shut down the latex plants to provide cleaner air for the games. The manufacturer's of course, did not lower pricing after the Games and the factories started back up. Now with raw latex pricing escalating the manufacturing community is passing more cost on to the consumer. It is clearly time to make the switch to non-latex gloves.




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