Recalled Eye Drops Lead to More Deaths, Removals of Eyes

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March 23, 2023 – More people have died after using eye drops contaminated with what the CDC calls “a rare strain of an extensively drug-resistant” bacteria. 

The eye drops and ointments from EzriCare and Delsam Pharma were recalled earlier this year. 

Three people have now died, eight people have suffered vision loss, and four people have had their eyeballs surgically removed in a procedure called enucleation. A month ago, the outbreak had caused only one death.

To date, 68 people in 16 states have been affected by the tainted eye drops, with cases spanning from May 2022 to February 2023, the CDC announced in its most recent update. More than half of the people sickened were linked to four outbreaks at health care facilities, the CDC said. Most people developed symptoms before the CDC issued a warning on Jan. 20, a CDC spokesperson told NBC News.

Laboratory testing previously confirmed the presence of the bacterium P. aeruginosa in bottles of EzriCare products from patients with and without infections.

“Testing of unopened bottles of EzriCare Artificial Tears is ongoing to assist in evaluating for whether contamination may have occurred during manufacturing,” the CDC stated.

The names of the recalled products are EzriCare Artificial Tears, Delsam Pharma's Artificial Tears, and Delsam Pharma's Artificial Eye Ointment. Most people affected reported using artificial tears, the CDC said, noting that the most commonly used one was “EzriCare Artificial Tears, a preservative-free, over-the-counter product packaged in multidose bottles.” This was also the product used amid the four outbreaks at health care facilities that reported a combined 37 cases.

Anyone who used the products and has any of the following symptoms of an eye infection should immediately seek medical care:

  • Yellow, green, or clear discharge from the eye
  • Eye pain or discomfort
  • Redness of the eye or eyelid
  • Feeling of something in your eye (foreign body sensation)
  • Increased sensitivity to light
  • Blurry vision

There are no recommendations from the CDC at this time for people who used the products but do not have eye infection symptoms.