A patient-safety group is warning that, amid numerous reports of severe eye pain, burns, and chemical injuries linked to the misuse of Clear Care contact lens solution, Ciba Vision has failed to adequately warn consumers about potential health hazards related to their product. The consumer complaints started two years ago and continue today.
Clear Care contains 3 percent hydrogen peroxide, which isn't normally used in a contact lens rinse. Unless it’s neutralized in a special Clear Care lens case, the powerful cleaning and disinfect product “will burn and sting your eyes,” manufacturer Ciba Vision now cautions on its website. The problem is that people use the solution in a conventional flat contact lens case to rinse or soak their lenses before inserting the lenses into their eyes, rather than using the special case made by the company that has a built-in neutralizer ring that takes six hours to work.
Promoted as “clinically proven #1 in comfort,” Clear Care lens cleaner’s product label is allegedly not clear enough about the dangers of improper use—resulting in hundreds of eye injuries, according to the Institute for Safe Medication Practices (ISMP), a nonprofit safety group that has been lobbying for stronger Clear Care product warning labeling since 2010.
“This isn’t just a trickle of reports, it’s a gusher,” Michael R. Cohen, president of ISMP, told MSNBC on Wednesday as the group released an updated report on the dangers. “I think it probably ranks up there with the largest number we have ever seen for one product issue.” Depsite the ISMP lobbying for stronger warnings for two years, Cohen said complaints still continue to come in.
Googling “Clear Care eye burn” brings up more than 2.6 million results. On Yelp, reviewer DebRAWR says, “Please tell me that I am not the only yelper who accidentally “missed” the warnings and burned the crap out of my cornea?”
Another Yelper laments that he made the same mistake with excruciating results. “BURNING. My eye was bright red for pretty much the next 24 hours to the point that I refused to do anything social that didn't include sunglasses. I'm so paranoid about solution now.”
The FDA has received at least 110 reports of eye problems triggered by Clear Care, through its MAUDE device monitoring system, typically resulting from confusion due to similarity between bottles of Clear Care and other contact lens solutions that can safely be used directly in the eye.
Clear Care’s manufacturer made minor label changes the product labeling in 2011, but Cohen said patients continue to report accidentally putting the caustic chemical in their eyes, causing severe pain and, in some cases, serious harm.
Ciba Vision and the FDA, however, believe that the updated labeling offers strong enough cautions, with FDA spokesperson Sarah Clark-Lyon saying, “We believed that these changes were adequate to communicate the warnings to the end users.”
The instructions on the bottle say that Clear Care cleaner should only be used with the company’s proprietary contact lens case, which contains a built-in platinum ring that neutralizes the caustic chemicals after about six hours.
But after the changes, MAUDE continued to receive complaints from confused—and injured—Clear Care users, such as this July, 2011 report: “My eye slammed shut like I had acid in it and it took me 5 minutes to dig (my contact lens) out. I believe there should be a huge caution banner across the bottle so consumers understand the result of not using their ‘special case’ is that your eye will be burned with peroxide.”
Consumer Reports editor Nancy Metcalf says that when her 24-year-old daughter accidentally used Clear Care directly in her eyes, “She was up in the bathroom screaming. I jammed her eye under the faucet. Her eyes were burning for a couple of days.”
Several contact lens wearers reported that after accidental misuse of Clear Care, they were rushed to hospital ERs with chemical burns, corneal ulcerations and other eye disorders. Treatment typically involved eye patches and antibiotic eye drops, according to MSNBC.
To warn others, CR ran a 2010 article about the incident, warning the public, “Don’t rinse your contact lenses with Clear Care because you’ll burn your cornea.”
And if you or someone you know does make that agonizing error, rinse the affected eye immediately with copious water or saline solution. If pain or burning persists, seek medical care.
The hundreds of reported injuries are also a powerful reminder that it’s crucial to carefully read the direction of any medical product—even if you’ve used it before, since warning labels can change.
That’s especially important if you borrow contact lens solution from a friend or relative, as was the case with a number of those who were injured by improper use of Clear Care, since eye care products that may look alike can have very different effects and warnings.
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