FDA Has Growing Concern Over Contaminated Eye Drops

The past year has seen a surge of anxiety amongst users of eye drops, fueled by a string of government alerts cautioning about the possible bacterial contamination in various brands.

Earlier this year, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) disclosed several recalls of eye drop products associated with four fatalities and numerous instances of vision impairment. The FDA continued expressing concern over two other eye drop products in August due to potential bacterial or fungal infection risks. Most recently, consumers were advised to discontinue using 27 eye drop products suspected of bacterial contamination.

This torrent of warnings has left users of artificial tear products feeling unsettled. However, experts, speaking to CBS MoneyWatch, advise against panic, arguing that these warnings simply indicate an increase in regulatory scrutiny of over-the-counter eye drops – a measure expected to improve the quality of these products in the long term.

The FDA warned against 27 dry-eye products sold under store brands such as CVS Health, Rite Aid, Target Up & Up, and Walmart’s Equate. The products were found to contain harmful bacteria and were created under “unsanitary conditions” in a factory.

The FDA advised retailers and brands to remove the affected products from their shelves and websites after the manufacturer and distributor “failed to act swiftly” in recalling the products, according to an FDA representative speaking to CBS over MoneyWatch.

According to Carri Chan, a business professor at Columbia University, eye drop products may have common suppliers or be produced in the same facilities, implying that a single factory’s bacterial outbreak could impact multiple products across various brands.

Chan suggested that the issues might also stem from the FDA’s intensified scrutiny of these products. The FDA began strengthening its eye drops oversight after an outbreak of a bacteria that proved to be drug resistant.

Eye drop products, which must be sterile to ensure safe usage, are typically more prone to recalls as they demand finer oversight by the manufacturer to ensure no contamination compared to other pharmaceutical products.

The FDA maintains a list of eye drop products that consumers should discard immediately. You can also visit the website of your eye drop product’s manufacturer to check if the manufacturer may have recalled your regularly used product.

Users of eye drops should be aware of eye infection symptoms and immediately seek medical attention if they experience adverse reactions to their regular brand of eye drops.

Furthermore, users should always verify the expiry date of their eye drop products before using them. Even non-recalled, well-manufactured eye drops could start to harbor potentially harmful bacteria past their best-use date.