When I heard about the first few cases of fusarium keratitis that were reported in Singapore and Hong Kong in connection with ReNu with MoistureLoc, I hoped it was an exaggerated rumor being spread by an angry competitor. A week or so passed. Then I heard about a few more casesthis time in the New York and New Jersey area. Within days, I received a news release from Bascom Palmer Eye Institute in Miami confirming that their doctors have recently been treating an unusually large number of patients with fusarium keratitis. This wasnt going to go away.
The following week, Reviews Director of Optometric Programs, Arthur Epstein, O.D., appeared on Good Morning America, where he spoke on behalf of the AOAs Cornea and Contact Lens Section. The topic, of course, was fusarium keratitis.
Despite the big scare tactic headlines that many press agents are employing to get your patients to stay tuned, Dr. Epstein effectively set the stage for what will hopefully develop into a rational, non-alarmist discussion about appropriate contact lens care and research. What was shaping up to be a disaster (the likes of which we havent seen since 1989) may actually benefit optometry in the long run by highlighting the importance of compliancealbeit in an unfortunate, sensationalist manner.
Of course, the knee-jerk reaction of the nightly news is to instill fear in the contact lens-wearing public by asking the obvious ominous question on everyones lips: Are contact lenses really safe? Or, similarly, they could point the finger at B&L and tell stories of lawsuits and vision loss. Certainly, these are sexy stories that reel in viewers. But, fortunately, most reputable newscasters will call on an expert.
In many cases, these experts are your colleagues and friends. Or, perhaps you are one of many optometrists who will be interviewed by your local station or newspaper. If so, I would urge you to focus on the larger issues rather than fall prey to the medias myopic agenda.
This is one of the unique times in history when optometry is at a crossroads. It is a defining moment, and you can move in one of two ways. Optometrists (and the eye care industry as a whole) can use this alarming discovery as a means to draw attention to the larger issue of compliance, which would benefit public health as well as the profession. Or, individual O.D.s and vision-care companies can focus their energies on self-preservation by further fueling the media frenzy and engaging in malicious finger-pointing. But, perhaps the most detrimental outcome would result from the profession not moving as one, but rather walking in two different directions.
Optometry and manufacturers need to speak with one voice at this critical time. Mixed messages only create further public debate about the safety of the contact lens category as a whole.