In a story that is bringing concern and attention to what appears to be a pharmaceutical catastrophe, at least 68 people across the US are now known to have been infected by contaminated eyedrops. Among the victims, three have died, eight have been blinded, and four others needed to have an eyeball surgically removed, the New York Post reported.
EzriCare and Delsam Phama over-the-counter eyedrops were first recalled in February. Now they’ve been linked to cases in 16 states across the US, according to the CDC in an updated alert on Tuesday. The notice came from a March 14 tally, which means the number of victims is likely higher.
At least 37 cases in New York, New Jersey, Connecticut and Pennsylvania were “linked to four healthcare facility clusters,” the CDC said, without providing specific details.
“Three people have died and there have been 8 reports of vision loss and 4 reports of enucleation (surgical removal of eyeball),” the agency said, again without specifying where the cases occurred.
The drops were manufactured in India. They contain a strain of Pseudomonas aeruginosa that “had never been reported in the United States prior to this outbreak,” the CDC noted.
Of particular concern is that the drops are “extensively drug-resistant,” the center warned.
Although some “patients reported over 10 different brands of artificial tears and some patients used multiple brands, EzriCare Artificial Tears “was the brand most commonly reported,” according to the CDC.
“This was the only common artificial tears product identified across the four healthcare facility clusters,” the the health emergency warning noted.
“Patients and healthcare providers should immediately stop the use of EzriCare Artificial Tears,” the agency confirmed.
“Patients who have used EzriCare or Delsam Pharma’s artificial tears and who have signs or symptoms of an eye infection should seek medical care immediately.”
Symptoms include blurred vision, redness or feeling like something is in the eye as well as “yellow, green, or clear discharge from the eye.”
An attorney for Clara Oliva said she is suing the makers of EzriCare Artificial Tears for leaving her “horribly injured and now legally blind,” the New York Post reported.
JAMA Ophthalmology also highlighted two anonymous cases on Wednesday.
One involved a 72-year-old woman who lost vision in her left eye after using EzriCare Artificial Tears to treat dry eyes, according to Dr. Ahmed Omar at University Hospitals Cleveland Medical Center, who treated the victim.
“She started noticing some blurry vision in her left eye for a few days” and then “a yellow discharge on her pillow,” Omar said, according to CNN.
“And that’s when she started noticing that the appearance of her eye had changed.”
The woman went to ER where physicians detected a large ulcer on her left cornea, nearly covering her entire eye. Ultimately, she lost total vision in the eye despite treatment.
The other case publicized by CNN involved a 72-year-old man who had no previous vision problems before he used EzriCare Artificial Tears for dryness.
After experiencing a day of severe pain and decreased vision, he went to the Bascom Palmer Eye Institute in Miami with the problems worsening as antibiotics failed to help, The Post reported.
“He now has what is called corneal blindness because he’s 20/400 and has a corneal scar, but with corneal transplantation, he might have a better prognosis,” stated the eye institute’s Dr. Guillermo Amescua.