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These Eye Drop Brands Were Recalled, Due to Possible Bacterial Contamination

Green Matters logo: MainLogo Green Matters 3/23/2023 Lizzy Rosenberg
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Even though some over-the-counter drugs aren't quite as regulated as they should be, eye drops are generally thought of as a mild, gentle remedy for a myriad of minor ailments. But as of recently, that hasn't been the case.

Several eye drop companies were forced to recall products in 2023, due to bacterial contamination from a drug-resistant strain of Pseudomonas aeruginosa. And unfortunately, those who have been affected have suffered from various infections — and some have been fatal.

"The patients' eyes were painfully inflamed. They could sense light but could see almost nothing else. A doctor called one case the worst eye infection he'd ever seen," Mike Stobbe of AP News wrote in a February piece, before even more brands ended up recalling their products.

"It was the beginning of a national outbreak caused by an extremely worrisome bacteria — one that some say heralds an era in which antibiotics no longer work and seemingly routine infections get horribly out of hand," the article added.

But figuring out what was causing all of these infections, Stobbe writes, was initially a mystery. But infections seemed to be spreading like wildfire.

"Experts marvel at how disease detectives pieced together the case: Patients were scattered across the country. The illnesses occurred over the span of months," he described. "But [now], scientists also shudder, because they have long worried common bacteria will evolve so that antibiotics no longer work against them."

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Which brands of eye drops were recalled?

The FDA is currently pointing fingers at Global Health Pharma, an India-based healthcare company that reportedly sold contaminated eye drops to the U.S. As of March 21, per the CDC, 68 patients in 16 states (California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Illinois, North Carolina, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Nevada, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, Washington, and Wisconsin) have been infected by P. aeruginosa.

Global Pharma's recalled eye drop brands included EzriCare and Delsam Pharma — specifically EzriCare's Artificial Tears Lubricant Eye Drops and both Delsam Pharma's Artificial Tears and its Artificial Eye Ointment. Apotex Corp. and Pharmedica USA also recalled eye drop products, per NPR, however there weren't any reports that they'd caused infections.

Symptoms of eye infections from P. aeruginosa include: eye discharge or discomfort, redness of the eye, blurry vision, or light sensitivity.

In very extreme cases of these types of infections, the infection can spread to other parts of the body, such as the blood stream. According to NPR, at least eight people have gone blind and four had to get their eyeballs surgically removed, as of March 22, 2023. Three have also reportedly succumbed to their infections.

The FDA is now blaming Global Pharma for using inadequate packaging and for not using proper preservatives, to stave off bacteria.

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What is Pseudomonas aeruginosa?

Pseudomonas aeruginosa is a strain of bacteria that can cause severe infections — particularly among hosts who are already immunocompromised, according to the CDC. That said, it comes as no surprise that the vast majority of reported infections in 2023 took place in healthcare facilities.

Beyond being detected in certain types of medications and sometimes on medical equipment, the bacteria is also sometimes found in nature. However that is much less common, particularly in the U.S.

According to the National Library of Medicine, Pseudomonas aeruginosa is highly resistant to antibiotics, which makes it extremely challenging to treat once its infected someone. Hopefully this doesn't mean more strains are on the rise — just make sure to double check that your eye drops weren't recalled, to protect yourself from this nasty and seemingly ruthless strain of bacteria.


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