Eye redness can usually be remedied easily with over the counter (OTC) eye drops, but there’s concerning news about copycat eye drops that could cause eye irritation, an infection or ultimately cost people their eyesight.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has received numerous complaints from consumers about off-brand eye drops causing eye irritation instead of providing relief. These copycat eye drops are often packaged very similarly to name brands but priced much cheaper.

In particular, the FDA is warning consumers about certain brands of eye drops – South Moon, Rebright, and FivFivGo – that are packaged in such a way that they could be mistaken for Bausch + Lomb’s Lumify eye drops, which is FDA-approved for the treatment of eye redness.

Even worse, when the FDA tested samples of South Moon and Rebright, they discovered South Moon’s samples to be tainted with bacteria that could lead to an antibiotic resistant infection. While the FDA didn’t find similar contamination in Rebright’s sample, they still advised consumers to avoid this brand. For whatever reason, the FDA didn’t test samples from FivFivGo.

In addition to claiming to relieve redness, some off brands also entice consumers because they make claims to treat more serious eye conditions, like glaucoma, where the usual treatment involves prescription medications – not OTC meds – and sometimes surgery.

The country of origin for these copycat eye drops cannot always be verified, but there were eight separate recalls of eyecare products in 2023, including a recall in November of 28 different eyecare products after investigators discovered unsanitary conditions in a manufacturing plant in India. Some of these recalls occurred after reports of serious eye injuries that even resulted in a loss of eyesight in a number of people.

It is important to note that generic pharmaceutical products can be perfectly safe to use in place of the more expensive name brands. This is especially true when it comes to prescription drugs, where a generic substitute must pass the same standards from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) that the name brand does. The FDA advises consumers to exercise caution when buying eye drops or any healthcare products online and to only purchase products from reputable retailers.