Ratings, marketing claims and consumer reviews—many of which may be fake—don’t reflect an product’s true safety or efficacy and can mislead patients looking to purchase OTC eyecare products online. Photo: Getty Images.

In light of recent safety recalls for retail eye drops, it’s “buyer beware” for many over-the-counter ocular products. Research presented last week at ARVO looked at top-selling eyecare products on Amazon and their descriptive data and found that there are major discrepancies between Amazon consumer reviews and ratings and a product’s safety.

The cross-sectional study examined the 100 top-selling OTC eyecare products on Amazon and the product information, including cost, ratings, ingredients, manufacturer, country of origin, marketing claims and more. Researchers gathered allergen information and cross-referenced it with the American Contact Dermatitis Society and North American Contact Dermatitis Group allergen databases. They obtained recall information and adverse event data from the FDA and adjusted consumer ratings for false reviews using Fakespot.

The group’s findings showed that 52% of products contained allergens, such as benzalkonium chloride (23%), propylene glycol (15%) and polysorbate 80 (11%). One product was recalled. They noted that price-per-ounce wasn’t associated with allergens, more reviews or unadjusted ratings, but they did notice that after removing the fake reviews, the price-per-ounce was associated with higher adjusted ratings. Adverse events and allergens weren’t associated with product ratings.

Based on these results, the researchers concluded in their ARVO abstract that “despite widespread reliance on consumer metrics such as pricing, reviews, ratings and marketing claims, these factors do not consistently align with the safety metrics of OTC eyecare products. Furthermore, the discrepancies between Amazon-provided and fake-adjusted ratings underscore the need for more robust and transparent review systems. As the OTC eyecare product industry continues to grow, a combined effort from regulatory bodies, manufacturers and healthcare professionals is imperative to ensure product safety and maintain consumer trust.”

Original abstract content @2024 Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology.

Younessi DN, Lin JC, Kurapati SS, et al. Beyond the label: Investigating correlations between price, safety metrics, allergenic contents, consumer satisfaction, and marketing claims in the US over-the-counter eye care market. Poster presented at the 2024 ARVO Meeting in Seattle, WA.