Eye Drops 8 Times Bigger Than You Need- and You Pay for it

Eye drops usually contain 25- 56 microliters of fluid even though the human eye can only absorb seven. But why?

“Margin of Safety”

Although Novartis, a global drug company with over 118,000 employees, calls it a “margin of safety” to ensure enough of the drug in the fluid reaches the patients’ eyes, it isn’t necessary. In fact, smaller eye drops have shown not only to be just as good health-wise, but perhaps better too.

A study in 2011 on glaucoma eye drops for example found that increasing the drug concentration in their drops and then reducing their size not only resulted in better treatment, but also lower treatment costs as each bottle would last longer. The study went on to recommend drop sizes of 5-15 microliters.


Although research has been telling us this since the 90’s, drug companies have been looking the other way. Jerry Cagle, former head of product development at Alcon, a medical company owned by Novartis, said that companies have not taken action on this research as doubling the use-life of eye drops would naturally halve their sales. And would bottle prices then be increased to make up for losses in profit, competitors would take the upper hand.

To conclude, although smaller eye drop sizes are both better for our pockets and our health, drug companies knowingly make them too big to maintain their profits.

Sarah Chung

Raised in Hong Kong, now living in New York. A serial optimist, I love finding ways to improve to enjoy life even more.