Contact lens recall stepped up under FDA pressure: How to stay safe

Avaira Toric contact lenses
avaira toric, contact lenses, coopervision
Avaira Toric contact lenses

(CBS/AP) A little-publicized contact lens recall is coming into focus now that the FDA is on the case.

CooperVision - one of the country's largest eye care companies - issued its second announcement in two months about the recall of 600,000 Avaira Toric contact lenses. The company first announced the recall Aug. 19 and said it had focused its efforts on more than 7,000 eye care professionals who sell the lenses.

The lenses had been linked to pain, red eye, and blurry vision by wearers. Some Avaira Toric lens wearers have been sent to the emergency room in excruciating pain, MSNBC reported.

The FDA said Tuesday that the company needed a larger effort to alert consumers to the defective products, which contain a residue caused by a manufacturing problem.

FDA spokesperson Morgan Liscinsky said the agency is reviewing CooperVision's latest announcement to see if it addresses the agency's concerns over the scope of the recall.

"Failing resolution of those concerns, the FDA may issue a separate public communication," Liscinsky said in an emailed statement.

The public tug-of-war between CooperVision and the FDA underscores the federal agency's limited authority to dictate the handling of recalls.

Typically, the agency negotiates the terms of product recalls with companies, though the agency cannot order a company to recall a product or dictate the terms of the plan. Earlier this year the FDA gained the power to order recalls of unsafe food, however. Consumer advocates and some lawmakers have long supported giving FDA the same power to order recalls of drugs and medical products, though efforts have never passed Congress.

CooperVision said it "has fully cooperated with the FDA and continues to closely monitor the situation." The company notified its customers and asked eye care practitioners to contact their patients regarding the recall. Reports of hazy, discomfort, and severe eye pain have persisted since the first recall announcement.

"It is very frustrating that they're not more vocal about it and that the FDA hasn't warned more people," contact-wearer Mellisa Cotton, 40, of Atlanta, who said she suffered two corneal abrasions this summer after wearing the recalled lenses, told MSNBC. "Next to labor, a corneal abrasion is one of the most painful things you can have."

CooperVision said it was unaware of any permanent eye or vision damage linked to the products.

More than 8 million lenses are affected by the problems, according to the FDA, though only 600,000 made it onto the U.S. market.

Concerned contact lens wearers can go to the CooperVision recall web page and enter the lot number of the package to determine whether the lenses have been recalled.

Consumers can also contact CooperVision's consumer hotline at 855-526-6737.

Did you purchase one of the recalled packages? You can return it to your eye care practitioner or wherever you purchased the package.