The Food and Drug Administration recently announced recalls of several brands of eye drops over concerns they could cause bacterial infections, with potentially devastating health consequences, including blindness.
Millions of consumers use over-the-counter eye drops without a prescription daily as a remedy for dryness, irritation and other minor eye conditions. But the flurry of recalls is leaving some regular users of the products wondering if they’re safe? Here’s what you need to know.
Which drop brands have been recalled?
EzriCare and Delsam Pharma “Lubricating eye drops for artificial tears”. On Feb. 2, Global Pharma Healthcare recalled all lots of its EzriCare and Delsam Pharma brands of “lubricating eye drops for artificial tears,” which it says may be contaminated with bacteria.
The recall came after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) began an investigation into a cluster of multi-state bacterial infections that they believe were associated with tears. At the time of the recall, 55 adverse reactions to the drops had been reported, including eye infections, permanent vision loss and death due to bacteremia.
Global Pharma Healthcare said in a statement that consumers who use contaminated eye drops could go blind.
Customers were advised to stop using the drops immediately.
Delsam Pharma “Artificial eye ointment.” On February 24, Global Pharma also recalled a batch of a product distributed by Delsam Pharma, “artificial eye ointment”, again due to possible microbial contamination.
The company said using the contaminated ointment could lead to infections leading to blindness, although it has not received any reports of product-related injuries.
Apotex “Brimonidine Tartrate Ophthalmic Solution, 0.15%.” Another manufacturer, Apotex on March 1 recalled six lots of its own brand of glaucoma drops, called Brimonidine Tartrate Ophthalmic Solution, 0.15%, for patients with open-angle glaucoma or ocular hypertension.
The company said it launched the recall “out of an abundance of caution” over concerns that cracks in some of the units’ caps could compromise the sterility of the drops and lead to infection.
An Apotex spokesperson said the company observed four bottles with cracked caps and there were no reports of negative health findings related to the product.
Pharmedica “Purely soothing, 15% MSM drops. Pharmaceutical company Pharmadica USA in March reminded two batches of “Purely Soothing, 15% MSM Drops”, also due to sterility concerns.
Pharmedica has warned that patients who use contaminated eye drops are at risk of going blind, but the company said it has not received any reports of infection or illness linked to its product.
How were eye drops problems first detected?
According to the Associated Press, a patient in Los Angeles County, California who saw an eye doctor in the spring of 2022 developed an eye infection. Local health officials identified several more cases over the following months, with patients reporting inflamed eyes with thick yellow pus that obscured most of the pupil.
The hospital that first reported the infection determined it was caused by bacteria called Pseudomonas aeruginosa, which can cause infections in the blood, lungs or other parts of the body. The institution has also determined that the bacterium is resistant to many antibiotics.
During the year, other states received several reports of drug-resistant Pseudomonas, including a report of a Washington man who died after suffering a blood infection linked to over-the-counter eye drops.
In January, tests confirmed that the Florida cases were caused by the same bacterial strain as the California, Connecticut and Utah cases. On January 20, the CDC told doctors to avoid recommending the EzriCare product.
What are the risks ?
As of March 1, the CDC has identified 64 patients in 13 states with Pseudomonas aeruginosa. Health officials said the outbreak was linked to the use of artificial tears. Eight patients reported vision loss and one person died, according to the CDC.
Sick people most often reported using EzriCare brand eye drops, while some patients used multiple brands.
Eye drops can cause infections in other parts of the body because the eye connects to the nasal cavity through the tear ducts and germs can travel from the nasal cavity to the lungs.
Pseudomonas aeruginosa, which occurs naturally in the environment, can spread to humans who are exposed to contaminated water or soil. Pseudomonas aeruginosa can be spread from person to person through contaminated hands, equipment or surfaces, according to the CDC. Drug-resistant strains of the bacteria cause more than 30,000 infections a year in hospitalized patients in the United States and more than 2,500 deaths.
What if I use the recalled drops?
The CDC and FDA are urging patients to immediately stop using the recalled eye drops, even if they did not experience any adverse effects.
Patients who have used potentially dangerous products in the past should contact their doctor and ask for a safe substitute.
When should I see a doctor for a test or treatment?
Patients who have used recalled eye drops should be evaluated for any of the following symptoms commonly associated with eye infections:
- Discharge from the eye
- Eye pain or discomfort
- Redness of the eye or eyelid
- feel something in the eyes
- Increased sensitivity to light
- Blurry vision
Patients with signs of infection should contact their health care provider immediately for evaluation and treatment. Patients without symptoms do not need to undergo testing.
Are my eye drops safe?
Over-the-counter medical products are not as tightly regulated as prescription drugs, noted CBS News medical contributor Dr. David Agus.
“There’s not a lot of safety testing on any of these things, so when something comes out it’s because there have been complaints, or in this case, drug-resistant bacteria was linked to a bunch of cases,” he told CBS MoneyWatch.
As for products and brands that remain on the market and are not subject to a recall, he advised patients to “stick to the big brands you trust.” He also urged consumers to consider whether they really need to use eye drops.
“Ask your eye doctor if you really need it,” Agus said. “If we don’t really need something then we probably shouldn’t use it. If it’s not a real problem – maybe we have a bit of a dryness – we probably shouldn’t put something in our eyes,” he said. said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.