Death Toll From Recalled Eye Drops Reaches 4

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The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued an update announcing two additional deaths associated with bacteria-contaminated eyedrops. As of May 15, four people have died from an outbreak of Pseudomonas aeruginosa, a rare strain of drug-resistant bacteria. CDC also reported an additional 6 cases of eye removal or vision loss stemming from Global Pharma Healthcare PVT Limited’s tainted EzriCare Artificial Tears products. The India-based manufacturer has recalled the eye drops. In March, the number of deaths linked to the contaminated eye drops was only two, and the number of cases of vision loss or eye removal was only eight.

CDC warned that “patients should stop using EzriCare or Delsam Pharma’s Artificial Tears and Delsam Pharma Artificial Ointment pending additional information and guidance from CDC and FDA.” The agency further advised physicians and patients to discard these products, all of which are manufactured by Global Pharma Healthcare.

To date, the agency has reported cases in 18 states—up from 12 in January 2023:

  • California
  • Colorado
  • Connecticut
  • Delaware
  • Florida
  • Illinois
  • North Carolina
  • New Jersey
  • New Mexico, Nevada
  • New York
  • Ohio
  • Pennsylvania
  • South Dakota
  • Texas
  • Utah
  • Washington
  • Wisconsin

Eye drop users should be mindful of the symptoms of infection from these products, which include:

  • Eye discharge
  • Pain
  • Discomfort
  • Redness
  • Blurry vision
  • Light sensitivity

Patients use EzriCare Artificial Tears to lubricate their eyes and relieve dryness and irritation. Sterility of the delivery mechanism is of critical importance with the drops, as any bacteria can be easily transported to the patient’s eye and cause infection.

Infections from Pseudomonas aeruginosa can affect a person’s blood and lungs. Although patients with infections typically turn to antibiotics for treatment, Pseudomonas aeruginosa possesses the quality of mutating to block antibiotics’ effects.

As of May 15, 2023, 81 patients have been identified with Pseudomonas aeruginosa, according to CDC. Fourteen patients suffered vision loss, four required surgical removal of their eyeballs (enucleation), and four died within 30 days of a clinical culture collection.

To date, no other products have been associated with this outbreak.

Doctors and patients who experience adverse events or quality problems with these eye drops are encouraged to report the incidents via the FDA’s MedWatch Adverse Event Reporting program.