When I purchase and use over-the-counter products, the first thing that comes to my mind is safety. The product probably wouldn’t be accessable and easily available if this were not true. The second thing that comes to mind is effectiveness, although I keep a watchful eye about that. Of course, most OTC products have a proven track record, like pain medications, while a few might be more in the “snake oil” category. The last thing that comes to mind is the chance that I could die from using an OTC product, especially an eye drop.
But that is exactly what happened in early 2023. Not one, but three deaths have been linked to imported OTC eye drops, according to the CDC. The alarming part, to me, is that this is not an ingested product, but a topically instilled eye drop. Also keep in mind that this eye drop, chemically speaking, contains nothing harmful in it.
So what caused these eye drops to turn deadly? According to the CDC, the deaths were caused by a rare, drug-resistant strain of bacteria called Pseudomonas aeruginosa, which may have contaminated the drops. In addition to the three deaths, eight others lost their vision and four peope had to have their eye enucleated (surgically removed). Since then, two brands of drops, EzriCare Artificial Tears and Delsam Pharma’s Artificial Tears, which are made by Global Pharma based in India, have been voluntarily recalled.
In an unrelated matter, In March of 2023, another OTC artificial tear was recalled. Two lots of Purely Soothing drops, another OTC artificial tear which is made by Pharmedica USA in Phoenix, were recalled because of sterility issues.
The obvious take-away I have learned from all of this? Of course the above is a rare and unfortunate event (accident?) and the vast majority of OTC products are safe. But just because a product is OTC, specifically a seemingly innocent artificial tear, does not mean that bad things can happen. In addition, always be aware of a potentially bad event, and don’t be afraid to seek help, even if it is “just an OTC product”.