Walter Reed acknowledges mix-up

WASHINGTON — Walter Reed National Military Medical Center is examining how it mistakenly provided a Virginia woman with a potentially deadly heart stimulant instead of the Vitamin B12 injection she had been prescribed.

Sandy Dean, a spokeswoman for the Bethesda, Md., hospital complex, said the mix-up was an ‘‘isolated incident’’ but the pharmacists and staff technicians will be retrained on verifying prescriptions and new protocols will be put in place to ‘‘ensure patients receive the correct medication.’’

The pharmacy at Walter Reed serves not only the facilities on the sprawling 243-acre Bethesda campus, Dean said, but also branch clinics throughout the Washington region.


Christiane Wiggins of King George, Va., said she discovered the potentially grievous switch April 24.

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Wiggins, who is 59 and married to a 30-year Army veteran, picked up the prescription from a clinic at a Navy installation in Dahlgren, Va., in early March. She took the drugs home, where they remained until her son, a former emergency medical technician, prepared to inject her last month.

The son, Christopher Wiggins, said the outer paper bag, the plastic bottle, and enclosed paperwork all identified the drugs within as cyanocobalamin, a common synthetic form of Vitamin B12.

But inside the plastic bottle, he said, were vials labeled atropine sulfate — a drug used intravenously to treat a low or stopped pulse.

Intravenous atropine, according to a federal database, ‘‘is a highly potent drug and due care is essential to avoid overdosage,’’ which ‘‘may cause permanent damage or death, especially in children.’’