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Awareness of Drug-Induced Eye Toxicity Crucial for Patients, Physicians, Says Public Citizen on WorstPills.org

April 1, 2008

Awareness of Drug-Induced Eye Toxicity Crucial for Patients, Physicians, Says Public Citizen on WorstPills.org

Article in ‘Drug Safety’ Identifies 62 Drugs That Can Cause Eye Disease

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Physicians and patients should be aware of the slew of drugs that can cause eye disease and be diligent in identifying potential adverse effects, Public Citizen writes in a new March posting on its WorstPills.org Web site.

A recent paper published in Drug Safety identifies 62 drugs that can cause adverse reactions to the eye. Public Citizen summarizes the paper’s findings, highlights these reactions and describes how they relate to structures in the eye and certain eye conditions.

The eye is composed of a plethora of different types of cells, and drugs can affect each type. The 62 drugs can cause a host of different eye diseases, including cataracts, glaucoma, eye surgery complications, eyelid and conjunctival diseases, optic nerve diseases and retinal abnormalities. Loss of color vision, blurred and impaired vision, decreased night vision, skin lesions and blindness are just some of the symptoms people who develop these diseases can experience.

While people are aware of the undesirable effects drugs can have on organs in the body, they often don’t consider the potential risks to their eyes.

“The eye is a crucial organ, and it is important that physicians and patients understand the risks associated with certain drugs,” said Dr. Sidney Wolfe, director of the Health Research Group at Public Citizen.

WorstPills.org includes the full list of implicated drugs cited in the Drug Safety article. Some examples include: chloroquine and hydroxycholoroquine, used to treat rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, amoebae and malaria; the antibiotic linezolid; ethambutol, used to treat tuberculosis; corticosteroids; alpha-1 blockers, particularly tamsulosin; botulinum toxin (Botox); morphine administered intravenously or by mouth; and drugs in the anticholinergic and adrenergic categories.

Just as patients check for drug-induced diseases in other parts of the body when starting new medications, they also should consider newly developed eye symptoms, Wolfe said. Early detection and various eye examinations are crucial, since some conditions, such as retinal damage, are reversible only during the earliest stages of the disease.

Worst Pills, Best Pills is a monthly newsletter available in print and electronic formats through Public Citizen’s subscription Web site, www.WorstPills.org. The site has other searchable information about the uses, risks and adverse effects associated with prescription medications, including all the information contained in Public Citizen’s best-selling book, “Worst Pills, Best Pills.”

WorstPills.org is an unbiased analysis of information from a variety of sources, including well-regarded medical journals and unpublished data obtained from the Food and Drug Administration, that allows Public Citizen to sound the alarm about potentially dangerous drugs long before they are banned by the federal government. For example, Public Citizen warned consumers about the dangers of Vioxx, ephedra, Baycol and Propulsid years before they were pulled from the market.