Chloramphenicol for conjunctivitis

Editor, – I am writing in response to letters1,2 published on the use of chloramphenicol for conjunctivitis and the issue of aplastic anaemia.

I believe there is confusion within the medical community in respect to the use of topical chloramphenicol and its risk for induction of aplastic anaemia. I wish to draw your attention to an article which appeared in the European literature in 1986.3 This article was divided into two parts, the first was an analysis of case reports and the second was a retrospective case control study in the southern region of the Netherlands. The population in this southern region, surrounding the city of Tilburg, was 265 000 inhabitants whose clinical needs were satisfied by two general hospitals. A written enquiry was held in all pharmacies (private and hospital) and emergency departments of both hospitals during the period 1980-1985. Topical chloramphenicol was used by an average of 8560 people per year. This study concluded that there was no proof of any clear-cut relationship between the use of topical chloramphenicol and bone marrow suppression.

I hope this information is of some interest to those practitioners who have been following this topical discussion.

Erwin Groeneveld
Ophthalmic Surgeon
Brisbane, Qld


  1. O'Brien JP. Chloramphenicol for conjunctivitis [letter]. Aust Prescr 1996;19:4-5.
  2. Hodson TJ. Chloramphenicol for conjunctivitis [letter]. Aust Prescr 1996;19:60-1.
  3. Besamusca FW, Bastiaensen LA. Blood dyscrasias and topically applied chloramphenicol in ophthalmology. Doc Ophthalmol 1986;64:87-95.