After recalls, deaths, what can be done about eye drops?

  • EzriCare eye drops were recalled in February
  • Three have died because of a bacteria linked to contaminated eye drops
  • Former FDA commissioner: Supply chain crucial to solving the problem

(NewsNation) —Three people have died, eight have gone blind, and four have had their eyeballs surgically removed because of a bacteria linked to contaminated, recalled eye drops, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

These eyedrops, distributed in the U.S. by EzriCare and Delsam Pharma, were recalled in February. Health authorities are continuing to track infections as they investigate the outbreak.

A total of 68 people were diagnosed with infections from the bacteria, called Pseudomonas aeruginosa, per the latest government tally.

Recalled eye drops were manufactured by Global Pharma Healthcare in India, where Pseudomonas aeruginosa is commonly linked to outbreaks in hospitals.

Pseudomonas aeruginosa is resistant to standard antibiotics, so it is considered particularly worrisome to health professionals.

The CDC has now identified cases of it in 16 states, including California, New York, Illinois, Texas and Pennsylvania. Most of the cases have been linked to four regional clusters. EzriCare’s drops are the only product used by patients in each of those groups, the Associated Press reports.

Now, EzriCare is facing multiple lawsuits, including two federal class action suits.

Attorney Ryan Yaffa says his client Clara Olivia lost her right eye and is now legally blind after a bacterial infection caused by EziCare’s “Artificial Tears” product.

“She cannot pick up her grandchildren from school as she always normally did,” Yaffa said. “As a result, at this time of life when she’s retired and should be enjoying herself, she’s now having to re-learn basic tasks, and live a life that just markedly different than it was before.”

Former FDA associate commissioner Peter Pitts says many of the companies making regulated products like eyedrops don’t take quality seriously.

“I think the supply chain issue is crucial, and shame on us if we wait for deaths or blindness,” Pitts said. “We need to be much more proactive to prevent these problems from happening before they reach our shores.”

It’s not “economically feasible” to make these products in the U.S., Pitts said. That’s why he thinks the solution is to do business with “friendlier nations” with a “high regard for integrity and quality.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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