Well, this is ironic. The Food and Drug Administration is warning the country of the possibility of health care infections caused by the antiseptics used to disinfect skin before health care procedures — that is, to prevent infections. They consider it a serious enough problem that they have scheduled a two-day hearing about it next week.
In this week’s New England Journal of Medicine, Drs. Christina Y. Chang and Lesley-Anne Furlong of the FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research explain that pre-operative antiseptics have never been examined for infection risk. They were grandfathered into FDA approval because they were on the market long before the FDA began assessing such products, as a result of expert testimony that they would kill any microbes that contaminated them. That assumption turns out to have been incorrect. The authors say:
The reported outcomes range from localized infections at injection sites to systemic infections resulting in death. The reports implicate all commonly used antiseptic categories, including alcohol, iodophors, chlorhexidine gluconate, and quaternary ammonium products.