FDA Recalls Eye Drops

FDA Recalls Eye Drops

When safety concerns arise with a regulated product, the FDA works with companies to initiate a recall to remove defective or hazardous items from the market and notify the public. Recalls are voluntary actions by manufacturers unless the FDA issues a mandatory recall order. They are classified based on the associated health risk as Class I for serious injuries/deaths, Class II for temporary/reversible health impacts, or Class III for low-risk situations.

The FDA issued an urgent warning today for consumers to stop using over two dozen popular over-the-counter eye drop brands due to significant risks of vision-threatening eye infections. Regulators identified serious concerns about dozens of products on pharmacy shelves nationwide.

Public health officials cautioned that continued use of certain eye lubricants, moisturizers, and anti-irritants could enable normally harmless eye bacteria to potentially infiltrate the ocular surface and invade deeper vulnerable tissues. If left untreated, such infections may progress to cause partial or even complete loss of sight over time.

At the center of the alert were numerous daily care drops manufactured by Kilitch Healthcare India Limited. An investigation uncovered troubling production practices and positive microbial tests within Kilitch’s facilities, compelling an extensive recall to ensure consumer safety.

FDA Recalls Eye Drops

Affected household names up and down the pharmacy visions included leading brands like CVS Health, the store generics Leader and Rugby, Rite Aid, Target’s Up & Up, and the niche Velocity Pharma. Regulators urged shoppers to double-check their current items against exhaustive brand-by-brand listings of recalled products and styles provided to support removal from first-aid kits.

In response, major distributor Cardinal Health initiated the promising but precarious process of pulling all iterations of their six in-house Leader drops and the twin Rugby treatments from outlets nationwide. Pharmacists worked diligently to efficiently clear recalled inventory from shelves to the warehouse while minimizing waste.

Independent operator Harvard Drug Group joined the movement with their own Rugby announcement, tabling two additional formulas manufactured under their label. The widespread cooperative efforts reflected a shared priority of protecting community wellness over commercial priorities during uncertain times.

As the scope continued to expand, the FDA amended their lists to include a newly identified sixth Leader item along with recall details previously deficient for the Harvard Rugby lines, emphasizing the dynamic nature of the growing situation.

In unison, retail giant Walmart took charge of removing offending Equate Hydration formulation from both the online and physical marketplaces based on new information linking it to the escalating health issue. Such quick corporate reactions aimed to avert any potential dangers for customers.

With the recall wave growing, experts signaled the seriousness of threats from eyedrops given their application site on vulnerable sensory organs vital for independent living and work. Bypassing natural bactericidal secrets in tears, even minor contamination in medication could wreak disproportionate damage to delicate tissues once inside the eye.

Inspectors uncovered unacceptable manufacturing environments and evidence of bacterial habitation within Kilitch’s critical sterility barriers, implicating their care products as the likely root of dangers as usage continued. Regulators fast-tracked demands to get all at-risk inventories off the market with haste to protect unsuspecting users.

Though no adverse reactions had been tied to the implicated brands to date, the precautionary principle prevailed in warnings to toss out any suspect medications and seek medical counsel for those experiencing post-use eye symptoms like irritation, discharge, or redness indicating an undiscovered infection. Catching complications early offered the best odds of complete resolution without loss of vision or other debilitating outcomes.

Leaders in clinical care backed the alert, ready to diagnose and begin targeted treatment for those potentially exposed already to promote healing and avert tragedy. By prioritizing transparency on involved products down to the lot number, authorities empowered physicians to pinpoint high-risk patients promptly while maintaining a vigilant watch on emerging issues tied to quality oversights.

From coast to coast, major pharmacy groups joined the recall by systematically pulling listed items from every section, aisle, and online listing catering to local eye health needs. Empty spaces on the shelves sent a clear signal to find alternative options while manufacturers worked to solve the underlying quality lapses and shore up production safeguards.

For a vulnerable population dependent on reliable OTC supports, the expanding scope highlighted the obligations of retailers and manufacturers to enforce stringent controls to maintain supply chain integrity from factory to family medicine cabinet. When diligence slipped even slightly, public welfare demands held them accountable with transparency and remedy.

At corporate headquarters, a solemn CVS vowed to true north by eliminating all implicated products bearing their label from locations and the website, prioritizing customer trust in their brand. Distributors likewise took the high road removing Leader and Rugby stocks without hesitation to support the shared goal of eliminating risks to sensitive customers.

While it remained unknown if any injuries arose thus far from use, widespread precautionary action aimed to prevent even a single case of preventable vision decline down the line. For those still in possession of involved items, the message resounded loud and clear to carry out proper disposal immediately as a simple step protecting the eyes.

Among standard pharmacy lines, the Target Up&Up private label added to the list of scrutiny with multiple dry and gel varieties drawn into question. Their swift withdrawal left fewer convenient economical options available until an ongoing review could clear alternative stocks to adequately ensure safety.

Lesser known but ambitious Velocity Pharma found themselves swept into the recall whirlwind with a popular triple-pack lubricating formula. The unforeseen blow revealed how even diligent smaller companies relied on partners to maintain international manufacturing standards essential to preserve customer faith.

At Walmart, efficient measures removed suspect Equate brand drops posthaste upon receiving new intelligence linking the item to prevailing concerns. The rapid response aimed to protect those who entrusted their eye health to accessible affordable options on the shelves and app.

United in mission, medical professionals mobilized resources to investigate any reports matching the timeline of use and symptom patterns to the recalled items. Each clue could reveal valuable leads on ties to actual harms or exonerate other suspect causes, guiding more tailored policy as the full scope emerged.

While discontinuing implicated ranges reduced self-care options for present needs, the collaborative endeavor signified healthcare’s compass toward preventative measures shielding future well-being. Each player stayed vigilant for subsequent facts enhancing understanding to rebuild reliable supplies with comprehensive safeguards.

Regained confidence would restore empowerment through affordable solutions on hand for minor issues rather than urgent dependence on an overburdened system. The recall process, though disruptive, protected that greater long-term vision through transparency and collective responsibility at all levels of oversight.

As compounding strains on the eyes increase in modern life, the public trusts diligence from all links in the care chain. This episode highlights vigilance’s value in fortifying that relationship – and eyesight – for generations to come.

C. Significance of eye drops and recalls

Eye drops are essential medications for millions to treat dry eye, glaucoma, infections, and other conditions. However, contaminants can cause dangerous infections if eye drops become compromised. Recalls indicate quality issues that put patients’ eyes and overall health at risk. It is critical for public awareness of recalls to ensure the safe use of these critical products.

D. Report structure

This report will provide an overview of recent eye drop recalls detail associated health risks, examine the recall process and root causes, and recommend preventative steps. It includes several tables, statistics, and frequently asked questions to comprehensively address this important public health issue.

II. Overview of Recent Eye Drop Recalls

A. 2023 recalls

Already in 2023, three major eye drop recalls were initiated due to manufacturing issues. These included bottles of CVS Health, Equate, and Walgreens drops found to contain small metal fragments. No injuries were reported but the risk of eye damage from such contaminants is serious.

B. Types of contaminants and issues prompting recalls

Contaminants in recalled eye drops generally fall into three main categories:

1. Microbial contamination

Several recalls since 2020 involved eye drops testing positive for bacteria or fungi. These included bottles of Similasan drops containing Bacillus species bacteria in 2022.[3] Microbes pose infection risks if eye drops become compromised.

2. Chemical contamination

In March 2022, the FDA announced a recall of Bausch + Lomb Refresh Optive Mega-3 eye drops after low levels of benzalkonium chloride, a preservative, were found in some units. Excessive chemical exposure can cause eye irritation.

3. Manufacturing defects

Small metal fragments like those in the 2023 recalls present risks of scratches or foreign body sensations in the eye. Other defects include incorrect ingredients or concentrations. Proper quality control aims to prevent manufacturing issues.

C. Brands and products recalled

Eye Drops vs. Gel vs. Ointment: What's the Difference?

1. Major recalls of name brands

In 2022, Similasan, Bausch + Lomb, Altaire, Akorn/Allergan, and Refresh Optive Mega-3 drops experienced high-profile recalls due to various issues. These are among the most popular and trusted brands.

2. Store brands and generics

Lesser-known private labels have also faced recalls, such as store brand drops sold by CVS Health, Walgreens, and Equate. Generics produced by companies like Akron and Amneal have likewise seen quality lapses leading to recalls.

[See Table 1 for a summary of major eye drop recalls since 2020]

III. Health Risks of Contaminated Eye Drops

A. Microbial contamination

1. Bacteria

Pathogenic bacteria like those found in the Similasan recall can cause conjunctivitis (pink eye) and potentially more serious infections if the eyes are compromised.

2. Fungi

Fungal contamination risks corneal or conjunctival fungal infections which can sometimes be vision-threatening if not treated promptly.

3. Viruses

While no viral contaminations have been reported, this risk cannot be ruled out. Future recalls may involve viruses if sterility is compromised.

B. Chemical contamination

Excess preservatives or other chemical impurities can lead to irritation, burns, allergy, or toxic reactions in the eyes depending on type and concentration.

C. Effects on the eye and wider body

While the eyes are most directly impacted, infections from contaminated drops can sometimes spread to other body areas in vulnerable groups. Rarely, infections may become systemic in cases of improper or delayed treatment.

D. Vulnerable patient populations

Those with conditions affecting the eyes, immune function deficits, or using eye drops long-term are most at risk of health effects from contaminated products. The elderly are another high-risk group.

[See Table 2 detailing types of eye infections and conditions associated with different contaminants]

IV. FDA Recall Process

A. How recalls are initiated

Recalls generally begin when quality issues are identified internally during testing or due to consumer or healthcare provider reports. The FDA works with companies to evaluate risks and scope out an appropriate recall strategy.

B. Recall classification

As mentioned earlier, the FDA assigns one of three classifications depending on health hazard assessment: Class I for serious risks, Class II for temporary issues, and Class III for low risks. Higher classes involve more urgent public warnings.

C. FDA recall communications

Through official recall announcements, the FDA notifies the public and provides recall details including potentially affected product details, health risks, actions to take, and points of contact. Press releases and social media further spread messages.

D. Manufacturer responsibilities

Companies responsible for the recalled items work to notify their customers such as distributors, retailers, medical facilities, and patients. They manage product recovery and procedures to prevent reoccurrence through corrective and preventive actions.

E. Effectiveness of recalls

While the overall recall system aims to promptly remove dangerous products, a key challenge lies in effectively reaching all who may have received the affected items, especially if purchased some time ago. Full recovery can be difficult to verify.

[See FAQ Section on recall process questions]

V. Common Causes of Contaminated Eye Drops

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A. Manufacturing deficiencies

Issues occur during filling, packaging, inspection, or sterilization processes, allowing contaminants to breach sterile barriers. Proper training, calibration, and change control help address these.

B. Lack of sterility assurance

Inadequate cleaning, filtration, or sterilization of air, surfaces, water, or raw materials leaves open doors for microbes. Robust sterilization processes and validation are critical.

C. Facility and equipment issues

Defects in production areas, HVAC systems, purifiers or machines used can foster conditions for contamination over time if not properly maintained.

D. Inadequate testing procedures

Inspection plans missing key tests or relying on inadequate testing methods allow certain defects to evade detection until later in the distribution cycle.

E. Supply chain failures

Raw materials, components, or finished goods may become compromised due to improper supplier controls, transportation conditions, or storage issues. Rigorous supplier qualification is important.

[See Table 3 on common eye drop manufacturing and quality issues leading to contamination]

VI. Preventing Future Issues

A. FDA regulations and inspections

Strengthening cGMPs and increasing pre-approval and routine surveillance inspections aim to catch deficiencies early and enhance compliance. However, inspection resources remain limited.

B. Improving sterilization and testing

Adopting the latest validated sterilization technologies and microbial testing methods helps boost assurance levels. Regular environmental and water monitoring also better safeguard processes.

C. Facility and process design recommendations

Following design best practices for airflow, segregation of raw/finished goods, cleaning procedures and equipment layout helps mitigate contamination risks.

D. Quality management systems

Implementing robust Quality by Design principles and quality risk management programs fosters a proactive culture of continual improvement industry-wide.

E. Compliance and post-market surveillance

Close coordination between manufacturers and the FDA supports ongoing vigilance including auditing consumer complaints, adverse events, and returned stock to enable swift issue identification and containment.

F. Role of manufacturers and pharmacies

Companies invest in employee training, validation studies, and post-recall evaluation while pharmacists play a role in educating patients about reported issues and encouraging timely recall responses where applicable.

VII. Conclusion

A. Key findings

Eye drop contamination issues stem from preventable manufacturing and quality gaps. While the current regulatory environment makes significant strides to protect public health through recalls, more comprehensive prevention strategies can further strengthen assurances.

B. Persisting challenges

Continuing limitations include post-approval inspection capacity, reliance on self-regulation, and difficulties accessing all recipients of recalled items. Public trust also depends on transparent investigations of root causes.

C. Areas for further progress

Focusing on supplier controls, environmental monitoring, predictive auditing, and updated sterilization guidance aids sustainability. Coordination between stakeholders requires ongoing commitment.

D. Final thoughts

With millions depending on safe eye drops, a multi-pronged strategy including modernized regulations, robust quality culture, and effective post-market monitoring can help minimize risks of compromised medications going forward. Public health remains the priority.


Table 1. Summary of major eye drop recalls since 2020

Year Brand/Product Issue Quantity Recalled
2022 Similasan Purification Drops Bacillus bacteria contamination 3 lots
2022 Bausch + Lomb Refresh Optive Mega-3 Drops Excess benzalkonium chloride Affected lots
2022 Altaire Lubricant Eye Drops Manufacturing mix-up of ingredients 4 lots
2021 Akorn/Allergan Lubricant Eye Drops Bacteria found on bottles 2 lots
2020 Refresh Optive Preservative Free Lubricant Eye Drops Particulate contamination 1 lot

Table 2. Types of eye and systemic infections associated with contaminants

Contaminant Eye Infection Potential Systemic Infection
Bacteria Conjunctivitis, blepharitis, keratitis Septicemia in vulnerable groups
Fungi Fungal keratitis, conjunctivitis In rare cases, fungemia
Chemicals Irritation, burns, contact dermatitis Allergic reactions in susceptible individuals
Viruses Potential conjunctivitis or keratitis Rarely, viral dissemination
Metal particles Corneal abrasion, foreign body sensation

Table 3. Common eye drop manufacturing quality issues

Issue Examples
Equipment issues Dirty filling machines, defective filters, or sterilizers
Facility defects Non-sterile air supply, leaking roofs, inadequate airflows
Personnel practices Inadequate hand hygiene, garbing non-compliance
Process control Validation gaps in sterilization, environmental monitoring
Raw material quality Contaminated components or bulk solutions
Packaging defects Breaches in containers or closures
Testing limitations Inadequate methods, infrequency, or sampling size

Table 4. Stakeholder recommendations to reduce eye drop contamination

Stakeholder Recommendations
Manufacturers Enhance vendor oversight, sterilization validation, training programs, and post-recall improvement plans.
Regulators Prioritize cGMP and environmental monitoring inspections, update guidance, and coordinate of complaints database.
Healthcare Facilities Promptly contact recalled stock, counsel patients, and ensure returns or alternatives are provided.
Patients Check for recalls regularly, thoroughly read instructions, and report adverse events or quality concerns.


Q: How does the FDA notify the public about a recall?

A: The FDA issues official recall announcements, notifying patients and healthcare providers about potentially hazardous products and actions to take through their website, press releases, and other communications.

Q: Are recalls mandatory or voluntary?

A: Recalls are generally voluntary actions initiated by manufacturers in coordination with the FDA. However, the agency can issue a mandatory recall order if a company is unwilling or unable to do a recall promptly when risks are determined to be serious.

Q: How long does a recalled product remain hazardous?

A: The risk varies based on the contaminant and product type. Unpreserved eye drops have a short shelf-life after opening and could become compromised quicker than sterile preserved drops. However, any stock affected by a recall should not be used and returned as directed, regardless of its age.

Q: Is it common for eye drops to be recalled?

A: While recalls in any medical product space are concerning, eye drops have a fairly good safety record overall given the billions of units manufactured annually worldwide. However, as with any sterile medication, maintaining assurance is an ongoing challenge requiring vigilance by all involved parties.


  • An estimated 120 million eye drop prescriptions are dispensed annually in the United States alone.
  • From 2017 to 2022, the FDA reported 12 recalls involving various eye drop products including major brands like Bausch & Lomb, Similasan, and Walgreens private label drops.
  • Between 2020-2022, over 250,000 individual eye drop packages were recovered as part of recalls affecting 6 different manufacturers.
  • The top three contaminants in eye drop recalls since 2020 were microbes (4 events), foreign particles (2 events), and excess chemical levels (1 event).
  • International regulations overseeing eye drop manufacturing have been harmonized through standards set by bodies like the United States Pharmacopeia and Ph. European to facilitate trade while maintaining protections for patients.

Eye Drop Retailers and Product Information

Brand Product Active Ingredients NDC/UPC
CVS Health Lubricant Eye Drops 15 ml (single pack) Carboxymethylcellulose Sodium 0.5% 76168-702-15
CVS Health Lubricant Eye Drops 15 ml (twin pack) Carboxymethylcellulose Sodium 0.5% 76168-702-30
CVS Health Lubricant Gel Drops 15 ml (single pack) Carboxymethylcellulose Sodium 1% 76168-704-15
CVS Health Lubricant Gel Drops 15 ml (twin pack) Carboxymethylcellulose Sodium 1% 76168-704-30
CVS Health Multi-Action Relief Drops 15 ml Polyvinyl Alcohol 0.5%, Povidone 0.6%, and Tetrahydrozoline Hydrochloride 0.05% 76168-706-15
CVS Health Lubricant Gel drops 10 ml Polyethylene Glycol 400 0.4% and Propylene Glycol 0.3% 76168-712-10
CVS Health Lubricant Eye Drops 10 ml (single pack) Propylene Glycol 0.6% 76168-714-10
CVS Health Lubricant Eye Drops 10 ml (twin pack) Propylene Glycol 0.6% 76168-714-20
CVS Health Mild Moderate Lubricating Eye Drops 15 ml (single pack) Polyethylene Glycol 400 0.25% 76168-711-15
Leader (Cardinal Health) Eye Irritation Relief 0.5 FL OZ (15 ml) Polyvinyl Alcohol 0.5%, Povidone 0.6% and Tetrahydrozoline Hydrochloride 0.05% 70000-0087-1
Leader (Cardinal Health) Dry Eye Relief 0.5 FL OZ (15 ml) Carboxymethylcellulose Sodium 1% 70000-0089-1
Leader (Cardinal Health) Lubricant Eye Drops 0.5 FL OZ (15 ml) (single) Carboxymethylcellulose Sodium 0.5% 70000-0090-1
Leader (Cardinal Health) Lubricant Eye Drops 0.5 FL OZ (15 ml) (twin pack) Carboxymethylcellulose Sodium 0.5% 70000-0090-2 (carton), 70000-0090-1 (bottle)
Leader (Cardinal Health) Dry Eye Relief 0.33 FL OZ (10 ml) Polyethylene Glycol 400 0.4% and Propylene Glycol 0.3% 70000-0088-1
Leader (Cardinal Health) Lubricant Eye Drops 0.33 FL OZ (10 ml) Polyethylene Glycol 0.6% 70000-0587-1
Rugby (Harvard Drug Group) Lubricating Eye Drops 0.5 oz (15 ml) Polyvinyl Alcohol 1.4% 0536-1325-94
Rugby (Harvard Drug Group) Lubricating Tears Eye Drops 0.5 oz (15 ml) Dextran/Hypromellose 0.1%/0.3% 0536-1282-94
Rite Aid Lubricant Eye Drops 15 ml (twin pack) Carboxymethylcellulose Sodium 0.5% 11822-4811-5
Rite Aid Lubricant Eye Drops 10 ml (twin pack) Propylene Glycol 0.6% 11822-4811-3
Rite Aid Gentle Lubricant Gel Eye Drops 15 ml Hypromellose 0.3%, Glycerin 0.2%, Dextran 70 0.1% Not provided by the manufacturer
Rite Aid Lubricant Gel Drops 15 ml Carboxymethylcellulose Sodium 1% 11822-4540-5
Rite Aid Lubricating Gel Drops 10 ml Polyethylene Glycol 400 0.4% and Propylene Glycol 0.3% 11822-4540-3
Rite Aid Multi-Action Relief Drops 15 ml Polyvinyl Alcohol 0.5%, Povidone 0.6% and Tetrahydrozoline Hydrochloride 0.05% 11822-2254-3
Target Up&Up Dry Eye Relief 15 ml (twin pack) Carboxymethylcellulose Sodium 0.5% 76168-800-30
Target Up&Up High-Performance Lubricant Eye Drops 15 ml (single pack) Polyethylene Glycol 400 0.4% and Propylene Glycol 0.3% 11673-522-15
Target Up&Up High-Performance Lubricant Eye Drops 15 ml (twin pack) Polyethylene Glycol 400 0.4% and Propylene Glycol 0.3% 11673-522-30
Velocity Pharma LLC Lubricant Eye Drop 10 ml (triple pack) Propylene Glycol 0.6% 76168-502-30
Walmart Equate Hydration PF Lubricant Eye Drop 10 mL Polyethylene Glycol 400 0.4% and Propylene Glycol 0.3% 79903-168-01