Complaints about a contact lens solution linked to a 2007 outbreak of eye infections that blinded several people went unreported by the manufacturer for more than a year, government documents show.
The documents show Advanced Medical Optics received complaints about the solution more than a year before it was recalled, and failed to promptly report nine complaints as required by law.
The company pulled its Complete MoisturePlus off the market in May 2007 after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention linked the fluid to dozens of cases of a serious infection called Acanthamoeba keratitis.
Lawyers for customers suing AMO obtained the documents, which stem from a previously undisclosed inspection by the Food and Drug Administration, through a Freedom of Information Act request. The papers were obtained by The Associated Press.
Of roughly 70 plaintiffs suing AMO and represented by the law firm Schmidt LLP, three had eyes removed, three others suffered blindness and about two dozen had at least one corneal transplant. The others suffered permanent vision damage.
Beginning in February 2006 and continuing through November, AMO received a series of complaints about users who were diagnosed with the Acanthamoeba infections. But those reports were not disclosed until June 2007, when FDA inspectors came to investigate the company's headquarters following its product recall.
What is most striking is the company's rationale for not reporting:
When questioned by FDA inspectors, company officials said they were not obligated to report the complaints because the product's labeling does not say it protects against Acanthamoeba, according to the FDA documents.
Kelly Morrison, a spokeswoman for Abbott Laboratories, which acquired AMO in February, said the company 'believed it was reporting customer complaints in compliance with FDA regulations.' She declined to elaborate. Abbott Laboratories is based in North Chicago.
That is an original excuse. Did the "company officials" really mean to imply that in the absence of a promise to protect against a specific microbiologic organism, patients and physicians should assume that the product could be contaminated with that organism? This completely ignores the company's basic responsibility to supply a product that is uncontaminated with any harmful organisms, and unadulterated with any harmful substances, and hence to be vigilant for any events that suggest that the product could have been contaminated or adulterated.
The "company officials'" bizarre excuse suggest a fundamental lack of comprehension of their responsibilities for the health and safety of the patients using their products. This is a particularly weird example of how little many leaders of health care organizations understand about health care.