There’s a shortage of contact lens solution in SA – thanks to a recent recall

Business Insider SA

Contact lens solution South Africa
(Getty Images)
  • South Africans are struggling to find contact lens solution at retailers.
  • One supplier confirmed to Business Insider South Africa that demand has outweighed supply.
  • This comes in the wake of one of the world's biggest suppliers of contact lens solutions and eye lubricants recalling products from shelves.
  • The voluntary recall by Bausch + Lomb, affecting eight brands of contact lens solutions and lubricants, stems from a third-party supplier in Italy tasked with sterilising bottles, plugs, and caps.
  • For more stories go to

For South Africans who rely on contact lenses, finding the correct chemical solution for cleaning and disinfecting them has become a struggle in recent months. The shortage follows a far-reaching voluntary recall of contact lens solution products by one of the world's largest suppliers.

More than 150 million people worldwide rely on contact lenses as a form of vision correction, therapeutics, or cosmetics, according to researchers at the University of Birmingham. And while contact lenses are seen as an alternative to traditional glasses, they're not maintenance free.

For starters, most wearers remove their contact lenses before going to bed. Keeping them in while sleeping increases the risk of an eye infection. So too do improper cleaning habits. Improper cleaning of contact lenses has been linked to a higher risk of complications, according to the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

This includes substituting specialised contact lens solution with water, which isn't sterile and could lead to infection, or hydrogen peroxide, which can burn the cornea.

Contact lens solution is specially formulated to disinfect and sterilise without irritating sensitive eyes. It's recommended that wearers replace the solution in their contact lens case every day.

But a shortage of contact lens solution in South Africa is making it difficult for wearers to take proper care of their eyes.

"We receive our stock from Adcock and have been faced with a situation that the demand has outweighed our supply, driven in a large way by other suppliers being out of stock," Brad Emmett, of leading contact lens brand Acuvue, told Business Insider South Africa. Emmett added more stock was due to be received "soon" to resupply the market.

This shortage of supply is a relatively recent phenomenon, with reports of retailers starting to run dry in June.

This followed a voluntary recall of products produced by Bausch + Lomb, which has been supplying South Africa with contact lenses, solutions, and lubricants for more than 50 years. The recall, announced on 24 May, saw more than eight brands of contact lens solutions and lubricants removed from shelves.

Suppliers in Europe, the Middle East, Russia, Hong Kong, and China have also been impacted by the voluntary recall.

"This recall follows a notification received by Bausch + Lomb from one of its third-party suppliers in Milan, Italy, which sterilises some components (bottles, plugs, and caps) of these products prior to manufacturing in our facility in Milan, Italy, of a compliance issue with its sterilisation process," Bausch + Lomb said in a statement, adding that it was only one of many companies impacted.

"While there is a low risk of infection with these products, we have chosen to voluntarily recall these certain lots of products because we cannot confirm the supplier's conformance to process compliance requirements for some of the components of these products. No serious adverse events have been reported to date in association with this issue."

The voluntary recall was issued after consultation with the South African Health Products Regulatory Authority (Sahpra). Retailers, pharmacies, eye care professionals, distributors and wholesalers who have purchased products directly from Bausch + Lomb have been asked to identify and remove any affected products.

Additionally, retailers and distributors which have purchased products from Bausch + Lomb are required to display a consumer notice – detailing the voluntary recall of contact lens solutions and eye lubricants to customers – in a visible location.

Business Insider SA reached out to the South African Optometric Association (SAOA) regarding the shortage and potential health impacts. SAOA did not respond by the time of publication.

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