Bacteria in recalled eye drops linked to cases of vision loss, surgical removal of eyeballs

A rare strain of bacteria found in the recalled eye drops has been linked to dozens of infections, as well as cases of vision loss, surgical removal of the eyeballs and one death.

Global Pharma Healthcare’s artificial tear lubricant eye drops distributed by EzriCare and Delsam Pharma were first recalled in early February.

In an update this week, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention identified 68 patients in 16 states with infections of a rare strain of drug-resistant Pseudomonas aeruginosa never before reported in the United States. Most patients have reported using artificial tears, according to the CDC. Although patients have reported using a variety of brands, the most commonly reported brand of artificial tears is EzriCare.

Reported adverse events as of March 14 include infections of the cornea, bloodstream, respiratory and urinary tract. There are eight reports of loss of vision and four reports of surgical removal of the eyeballs. Earlier it was reported that one person died.

The US Food and Drug Administration and the CDC have urged consumers to stop using the recalled products.

“Patients who have used EzriCare or Delsam Pharma artificial tears and who have signs or symptoms of an eye infection should seek immediate medical attention,” the CDC said in a statement. Symptoms may include yellow, green, or clear discharge from the eyes; eye pain or discomfort; redness of the eye or eyelid; feeling as if something is in the eye; increased photosensitivity; and blurry vision.

Global Pharma initiated a voluntary recall last month and the FDA recommended a recall due to manufacturing irregularities, including lack of proper microbiological testing and packaging in reusable bottles without proper preservatives.

In addition to artificial tears, the FDA recommended on Feb. 22 that Global Pharma recall Delsam Pharma’s artificial eye ointment due to concerns of bacterial contamination, which the company agreed to.

The company did not respond to CNN’s request for comment on Friday.

More eye drops reviews

Recently, new recalls of the eye drops have also been announced, although so far they have not been associated with side effects.

Pharmedica USA is recalling two batches of the anti-inflammatory Purely Soothing 15% MSM Drops due to “non-sterility,” according to a March 3 FDA filing. The company said it has not received any reports of side effects or illnesses related to the product.

The company advises consumers to stop using the eye drops immediately and return them to the place of purchase. Consumers with questions about the recall can call Pharmedica USA at 1-623-698-1752 listed on the FDA website.

Apotex is recalling six batches of brimonidine tartrate ophthalmic solution 0.15%, a prescription eye drop used to treat open-angle glaucoma or ocular hypertension. The company says the recall is due to “too much caution” due to cracked caps on some bottles, which could affect sterility and lead to adverse effects.

According to the FDA statement dated March 1, no infections associated with the product have been reported. Individuals who have purchased products in the specified batches listed on the FDA website should contact their healthcare provider immediately for medical advice and call 1-855-275-1273 to arrange a return.

Neither company responded to CNN’s request for comment on Friday.

How to safely use eye drops

Dr. Thomas Steinemann, clinical spokesman for the American Academy of Ophthalmology, says the eye drops are safe when made and used correctly.

“There are millions and millions of people who use eye drops safely and successfully in the United States for a variety of reasons,” Steinemann said. “I want to emphasize that the average eye drop user probably doesn’t have much anxiety and they shouldn’t stop using their eye medications or even over-the-counter medications.”

However, Steinemann notes that these testimonials highlight the importance of using eye drops safely. For example, patients should be careful when using preservative-free eye drops such as EzriCare artificial tears, as contamination can lead to serious infection.

“Once they get dirty or bacteria get into the bottle, obviously there is a source for bacteria to multiply and even transfer bacteria back to the eyes,” he said. “Most drops on the market contain preservatives that counteract this threat.”

Other ways to prevent eye infections include washing your hands before touching the bottle or eyes, avoid touching the tip of the bottle to your eyelashes and skin, and not using expired eye drops.

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