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Eye drops recalled after reports of deadly infections, vision loss. Are they safe to use?

Dallas Morning News logo Dallas Morning News 3/24/2023 Noor Adatia, The Dallas Morning News

With spring allergies on the rise in North Texas, you may have started reaching for your trusty eye drop container to feel relief from the itchiness and discomfort you’re feeling.

However, it could be wise to review recall notices issued by some manufacturers to ensure your eye drop brand hasn’t been pulled off the shelf recently. Over the last few months, the Food and Drug Administration has issued warnings for a handful of eye drops over sterility and contamination concerns, including some for containing a bacteria called Pseudomonas aeruginosa.

On Monday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported two additional deaths — for a total of three so far — linked to infections from this bacteria. Other eye drops users reported loss of vision and surgical removal of their eyeballs.

It’s best practice to exercise caution before grabbing your eye drop bottle in the back of your medicine cabinet. Here’s what you should know about the recalls so far, what the drug-resistant bacteria is and whether eye drops are safe to use.

What’s been recalled?

In February, India-based pharmaceutical company Global Pharma recalled two over-the-counter eye drops: EzriCare Artificial Tears and Delsam Pharma’s Artificial Tears. These products are mainly used to lubricate the eye for dry eyes, said Dr. Sai Chavala, professor of surgery at Texas Christian University’s Burnett School of Medicine.

The eye drops were also linked to the bacteria Pseudomonas aeruginosa, which has caused severe injuries in at least 68 patients, according to the CDC.

It’s likely the drug firm encountered some missteps during the manufacturing process by failing to provide appropriate microbial, or bacterial, testing for its products, Chavala said. He added that guidelines for over-the-counter eye drops aren’t as stringent as prescription drops.

“This vendor that was making the artificial tears were not following the best manufacturing practices,” he said.

Additionally, two other eye drops have been recalled over sterility concerns in the manufacturing process, which include a batch of Apotex’s Brimonidine Tartrate Ophthalmic Solution 0.15 percent prescription eye drops and two lots of Pharmedica’s Purely Soothing, 15% MSM drops.

These recalls were not related to the bacterial outbreak.

What is Pseudomonas aeruginosa?

In short, Pseudomonas aeruginosa is a potent, drug-resistant bacteria that is commonly found in the environment.

While Pseudomonas aeruginosa can be fatal if entered through the bloodstream, an eye infection from the bacteria doesn’t usually cause death, explained Chavala. In other words, when administered as an eye drop, the bacterial infection is localized to just the eye.

“And in patients that are immunocompromised that inhale it, it can cause death or serious infection,” he said.

An eye infection linked to this bacteria may result in eye pain and temporary or permanent loss of vision, Chavala said.

According to the CDC, general symptoms of an eye infection include yellow, green or clear eye discharge, eye pain, redness, increased sensitivity to light and blurry vision.

Are eye drops safe to use?

Eye drops are generally safe to use, Chavala said, adding that the bacteria-related recall was limited to only one vendor and one particular batch of artificial tears.

“This is a rare occurrence,” he said. “It’s only localized to a specific batch and this specific company’s products — there is no cause for concern of using eye drops from any other manufacturer.”

If you have or used a recently recalled eye drop brand, Chavala recommends consulting with your pharmacist.

©2023 The Dallas Morning News. Visit Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.


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