On Oct 31st, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) warned consumers against using 27 brands of eye drops after an inspection discovered that some of them were contaminated with bacteria from their manufacturing facility plants. What will this mean for the many people who use these products on a daily basis, and should consumers be concerned?
The FDA’s warning comes after an earlier recall of eye drop brands that possibly contained bacterial or fungal contamination and could lead to serious eye problems and warned consumers to stop using them immediately and dispose of them.
Investigations into the contamination that show signs of contamination from unsanitary production facilities caused by lack of regulation towards production facilities. Specific brands include CVS Health, Rugby (Cardinal Health), Rite Aid and Target. Stores like CVS and Target have removed such brands from their shelves and warned customers to look out for possible signs of eye infections.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, the usual strict regulations that the FDA imposes on manufacturers became laid back on certain manufacturing facilities due to the impact of limited travel options. This has contributed to the contamination of the products which affects many.
By not following through with its inspections and failing to conduct thorough check ups of each manufacturing plant as the FDA’s job was supposed to be, this allows developers and manufacturers to develop a sense of complacency which results in an increase in cases involving unsanitary conditions. As a result, the public can lose trust in the FDA which is dangerous as people will no longer be as trusting in what the FDA says to the public.
So far, several cases of eye infections and blindness have been reported, with one individual even passing away. These are grim and frightening details for many, which is understandable given that the products are going directly into our eyes and any contamination can cause harm to them. I myself was also worried , given that I use artificial tears each morning to remove my contact lenses which made me concerned that my brand would be among the ones being recalled and what that could mean for me.
This is not the FDA’s first critical mistake. There are past instances where the FDA has failed to recall products that caused harm to the public, such as Abott baby formula.
In February of 2022, there were reports that Abbott baby formula were contaminated, which resulted in multiple babies’ deaths. Despite that, the FDA did not recall them until months after. After their initial reports came out, it turned out that the agency knew about the situation much earlier, dating back as early as 2019, which caused outrage during that time.
However, the FDA has publicly expressed that they have since increased its review and regulations of such products ever since pandemic restrictions and the pandemic itself eased. The FDA has made sure to promise that the products are up to standard and is monitoring every process.
FDA spokesperson Jeremy Kahn stated that the FDA is “serveilling certain types of products more than ever” and has increased surveillance since the pandemic, adding that “inspections are now at full strength…the FDA has strict standards for safety, quality and manufacturing and makes every effort to keep the drug supply safe.” I expect them to continue strictly following standards in the future and not becoming complacent, making sure each product that the American people will be using is safe and harmless for them given its history of failed recalls in the past.
In addition to the FDA, many experts have also reassured the public that eye drops are still safe to continue using and advocated for the usage of eye drops for those that need them.
For example, Gary D. Novack, a clinical professor of pharmacology at the University of California Davis noted that the FDA has been very careful and stricter with their warnings and recalls lately, stating that eye drops have gone through a thorough inspection to make sure they are all clean before making their way to shelves and to people.
He also said that prescription eye drops are not affected, and only over-the-counter ones, reassuring them that they are “clean and sterile.”
There seems to be no currently new reports or cases of infections; despite that, consumers should still take every bit of caution when using or buying these products, double checking what brand they are purchasing from and if they heard anything about them and follow all guidelines and any new updates about them.
The FDA seemed to have stepped up its game in delivering clear and accurate information to the American people. However, with cases of the FDA hiding and covering up information, consumers should still exercise wariness and know the facts before buying them. Given the transparency on the list of brands and products that have been issued warning and the adequate warning that the American people has, there does not seem to be a case for excessive worry over the eye drops, and that they can be continued to be used as needed or prescribed with extra caution.