Dental patients test OK, no evidence of tainted drugs


LITTLE ROCK — Health officials found no infectious diseases in tests of patients examined after vials of medicine suspected of contamination were taken from their dentist’s office, the state epidemiologist said Monday.

Also, Dr. Dirk Haselow with the state Department of Health said tests found no evidence that the vials containing a narcotic pain killer had been tampered with.

Haselow said 62 patients of 66 patients who were treated by the late Dr. William Jarrod Steward between Nov. 20, 2011, and Feb. 20, 2012, have been tested. The remaining four have yet to be located because they had moved without leaving a forwarding address.

“We’re really nearing the end of what we’re going to do as a health agency to track this down,” Haselow said. “Even though there were some questionable practices that we learned about there appear to be no health consequences.”

Steward died Feb. 29, 2012. He had worked at Ocean Dental clinics in Fayetteville, Fort Smith, Hot Springs, Jonesboro and Little Rock, and Bevans Pediatric Dentistry in Little Rock.

After his death, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration discovered that some of the caps on several single vials of the sedative Meperdine, which has the brand name Demerol, which he had used on patients had had their caps removed, placed back on and the put back on the shelf. The narcotic is used as a sedative during a dental procedure, Haselow said.

“That’s strange and that’s never suppose to happen,” Haselow said about the caps being removed and then replaced. “That was strange enough for us to be concerned that the vials might not be sterile. We had no evidence to indicate that they had any pathogen, any bacteria or any virus in them … It’s just that that practice was so outside of the norm of what we’re use to that we felt that we needed to investigate before we were comfortable saying nothing was wrong.”

Haselow said the Health Department planned to ask the Arkansas state police to help find the four remaining patients.