netFormulary North of Tyne, Gateshead and North Cumbria NHS
Area Prescribing Committee Formulary  
 Formulary Chapter 11: Eye - Full Chapter


Preservative Free Eye Drops
Microbial contamination of multidose bottles of eye drops can cause eye infections that may lead to damage of the eye and in extreme cases loss of sight. To minimise the risk, multidose bottles of eye drops contain an antimicrobial preservative such as benzalkonium chloride. The preservatives used in eye drops are normally well tolerated, but they are not completely harmless. They can cause irritation and damage to the corneal epithelium. This risk is understood to be greater in patients with pre-existing damage to the ocular surface and where large quantities of preservative containing eye drops are applied repeatedly over a prolonged period (e.g. if applied more than 4 to 6 times daily for several weeks/ months).
To avoid these problems the use of preservative-free eye drops is recommended in:
 Patients who have experienced hypersensitivity reactions or irritation due to preservatives in eye drops.
 Patients who have received corneal grafts.
 Patients with conditions where there is already damage to the ocular surface as a result of disease or trauma, such as dry eye, blepharitis, ocular burns etc.
Treatment with preservative-free eye drops will usually be initiated by an ophthalmologist and details on their availability and use is available from the pharmacy at Newcastle’s Royal Victoria Infirmary (and on the North of Tyne and Gateshead Area Prescribing Committee’s website).

11.08.02  Expand sub section  Ocular diagnostic and peri-operative preparations and photodynamic treatment
11.08.02  Expand sub section  Ocular diagnostic preparations
11.08.02  Expand sub section  Ocular peri-operative drugs
11.08.02  Expand sub section  Subfoveal choroidal neovascularisation
11.08.02  Expand sub section  Vitreomacular traction to top  Expand sub section  Other products - Mainly for treating ocular injuries  Expand sub section  Antifungals  Expand sub section  Cytotoxics / wound healing modulators  Expand sub section  Fibrinolytic drugs  Expand sub section  Glues - ocular to top  Expand sub section  Immunosuppressants  Expand sub section  Treatment of burns  Expand sub section  Visco-elastics  Expand sub section  Other
note Notes
Section Title Section Title (top level)
Section Title Section Title (sub level)
First Choice Item First Choice item
Non Formulary Item Non Formulary section
Restricted Drug
Restricted Drug
Unlicensed Drug
Track Changes
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Link to adult BNF
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Link to children's BNF
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Link to SPCs
Scottish Medicines Consortium
Cytotoxic Drug
Cytotoxic Drug
Controlled Drug
High Cost Medicine
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Cancer Drugs Fund
Cancer Drugs Fund
NHS England

Traffic Light Status Information

Status Description


Drugs for hospital use only. The responsibility for initiation and monitoring treatment should rest with an appropriate hospital clinician and the drug should be supplied through the hospital throughout the duration of treatment. In some very exceptional circumstances (e.g. due to distance from the hospital, storage, supply or mobility/transport problems) it may be appropriate for the GP to be asked to prescribe a Red drug. This should be negotiated on an individual patient basis and should only be done with the GP’s prior informed agreement where the roles of the GP and hospital services are clearly defined and agreed. The GP should not feel under pressure to prescribe in these circumstances.   


Drugs initiated by hospital specialist, but where continuing treatment by GPs may be appropriate under a shared care arrangement. The specialist should send the GP a copy of the shared care agreement to sign. The GP should sign the shared care agreement, or indicate they do not want to be part of such an agreement, and return a copy back to the specialist. Shared care guidelines are available or are being developed for most of the drugs listed as Amber. If no shared care guideline is available, the hospital specialist should provide the patient’s GP with sufficient information and support to allow treatment to be continued and managed safely in primary care.  

Green plus

Drugs normally recommended or initiated by hospital specialist, but where the provision of an information leaflet may be appropriate to facilitate continuing treatment by GPs. Many of these information sheets are in the process of development.  


Drugs where prescribing by GPs is appropriate. Drugs not classified as Red, Amber or Green Plus (formerly blue in North of Tyne) are generally classified as ‘Green’ by default. The Green drugs listed here include those products normally initiated by hospital specialists where there was a need for discussion and debate as to the category in which they should be placed.