Statement on Chlorhexidine

26 November 2012

The Optical Confederation has reviewed the MHRA’s Medical Device Alert (MDA/2012/075) of 25 October 2012, which gives examples of anaphylactic shock in response to the use of chlorhexidine skin wipes and chlorhexidine impregnated intravenous catheters and issues the following statement:

"While chlorhexidine is used is some optical products including rigid gas permeable (RGP) contact lens solutions (such as Bausch + Lomb’s Boston Advance Conditioning and Cleaning solution and Boston Simplus solution), the concentration in these products is much lower (0.003% in Boston products) than the 2% level used in skin wipes. This means that the degree of risk is very low and offset by the benefit of including chlorhexidine as a highly effective preservative.

Chlorhexidine has been used in RGP contact lens solutions for many years and, whilst it can cause some sensitivity reactions, e.g. red eye or discomfort, the Optical Confederation is not aware that there have ever been any more serious reactions.

Patient safety is always our top priority and it is the top priority for reputable manufacturers too.  In line with MHRA recommendations, packaging will be labelled as containing chlorhexidine along with a warning such as “Do not use this solution if you are allergic to any component of this product”.

The Optical Confederation believes that practitioners can continue using contact lens solutions containing chlorhexidine as before, whilst being mindful of the very small risk of an adverse reaction and recording all known allergies, including to chlorhexadine, in the patient record. 

NOTES to EDITORS

  1. The MHRA’s Medical Device Alert (MDA/2012/075) of 25 October 2012 is available here: http://www.mhra.gov.uk/home/groups/dts-bs/documents/medicaldevicealert/con197920.pdf