Florida woman files lawsuit allegeding eye drops caused loss of her eye

Photo courtesy of MGN.

03/24/2023 By Colette Lauture 

A Florida woman filed a lawsuit against an eye drops company, which recalled their products after a contamination discovery. The drops allegedly left her legally blind.

Photo courtesy of MGN.

Clara Oliva, 68, of Miami, is seeking damages from Global Pharma Healthcare, manufacturer of EzriCare Artificial Tears, as well as the medical center that prescribed her the eye drops and her insurer. She is one of at least 68 Americans who have used eye drops later found contaminated with an aggressive bacterium called Pseudomonas aeruginosa, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

In May 2022, Oliva was told the eye drops approved by her insurer had changed, and her regular clinic gave her EzriCare Artificial Tears, Leon Medical Centers in Miami, her lawsuit said. She started having issues with her right eye in August 2022, as it abruptly became red, swollen, and “abnormally watery,” according to her lawsuit. Leon Medical Centers treated Oliva with a host of medications to treat an assumed corneal scratch – an abrasion of the cornea – which worsened her infection. A few days later, she said she visited the emergency room.

The lawsuit said that doctors performed a biopsy on her eye. Initially, they believed she had a fungal infection but discovered an infection caused by P. aeruginosa. Surgeons tried to remove the damaged portion of Oliva’s cornea and substitute it with donor tissue. Still, the procedure could not be performed because extensive damage prevented the safe removal of her cornea, according to the lawsuit. The lawsuit further reads that on Sept. 1, 2022, Oliva’s right eye was “surgically removed and replaced with a plastic implant…Given her decreased visual acuity…in her remaining left eye, Mrs. Oliva is now legally blind.”

She kept using EzriCare drops on her left eye until January, when Leon Medical Centers, according to the lawsuit, called and told her to stop using the drops because they had been recalled. She later learned from a televised news report that the Food and Drug Administration and Global Pharma Healthcare issued a warning and voluntary recall of the drops due to potential bacterial contamination.

EzriCare said in a statement in early February that it first became aware of the continuing CDC investigation in January, adding that they were cooperating with officials. They declined a request for comment from ABC News.

Oliva said her life has been impacted “1000%” since losing her right eye. In addition to relearning how to walk, she has experienced a diminished depth perception, and she can only drive her car short distances, her lawsuit said. She is also under psychiatric and psychological treatment for depression.

In a statement to ABC News, Leon Medical Centers said it “empathizes” with Oliva’s condition. The insurer, HealthSpring of Florida, did not reply to a request for comment from ABC News.