Eyedrops Are Too Big, and It's Costing Us Billions

ProPublica investigation deals with health care waste
By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 18, 2017 5:15 PM CDT
We're Wasting Billions— Because Eyedrops Are Too Big
New York Yankees' Starlin Castro uses eyedrops before a baseball game against the Baltimore Orioles in Baltimore, Friday, June 3, 2016.   (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

When you put eyedrops in your eye and a bunch of the liquid spills out, that's not necessarily user error. A ProPublica investigation, part of the publication's series on how billions of health care dollars are wasted each year, finds that eyedrops are way too big—some of them more than twice what the eye can actually hold—resulting in drainage and waste. A lot of waste, considering US drug companies made $3.4 billion last year on drops for dry eyes and glaucoma alone. Not only are users paying for the drops that end up wiped on a tissue, but the waste can have a serious impact on patients like Gregory Matthews, who has glaucoma and sometimes runs out of drops before his refill is available—using eyedrops consistently is important for glaucoma patients, because they help keep blindness at bay. Making matters worse? Smaller drops are possible.

In the early 1990s, a "microdrop" was developed, and studies conclusively found patients were able to administer it safely and effectively, leaving no waste. But it never came to market, and experts say that's because drug companies are too concerned about losing profits—the same size bottle of eyedrops could now last up to twice as long if microdrops were used. Those in the eye industry have long known drops are too big, yet decades later smaller drops are no closer to coming on the market. If eyedrops don't concern you much, the investigation also looks at another liquid medication, a cancer drug that was switched from multi-use vials to a single-use vial. The problem? Dosage is based on weight, so some patients will end up paying for medicine that's thrown away. Again, experts suspect drug company profits are behind the change. Click for ProPublica's full investigation. (Read more eyedrops stories.)

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