(Press Release) Citing the need to address those who undermine and undo essential patient safeguards, the American Optometric Association this week submitted formal comments to the Federal Trade Commission in response to its 10-year review of the Contact Lens Rule as well as the Ophthalmic Practice (Eyeglasses) Rule.

The AOA's comments urge the FTC to take action to ensure the regulations which implement the Fairness to Contact Lens Consumers Act (FCLCA) are fair and effective among patients and their doctors, and retailers.

The Eyeglasses Rule, first issued in 1978, requires eye care professionals to provide patients with a copy of their spectacles prescription at no extra cost immediately following an eye examination.

“This process is our opportunity to advocate for patients and begin to address serious problems with the existing Contact Lens Rule, such as the deeply flawed passive verification process,” said Steven A. Loomis, O.D., president of the AOA. “It is critical that those who put profits ahead of patient safety not have the last word in Washington.”

AOA submitted detailed formal comments to FTC officials, along with state affiliate associations, individual optometrists and the Coalition for Patient Vision Care, which also submitted well researched and well supported comments to FTC.

In addition, in an October 8 letter to the FTC calling for increased enforcement efforts targeting illegal contact lens sales, Senator David Perdue (R-GA) said, "The public is misled by online vendors who will sell these medical devices without requiring a prescription or with appropriately verifying a prescription with the patient's doctor."

The AOA's comments encouraged the FTC to best protect patients by:

  1. Fixing the broken passive verification system;
  2. Ensuring retailers can't sell lenses based on an expired prescription;
  3. Stopping 'robocalls' that often are difficult to understand or are incomplete;
  4. Shutting down online retailers that allow patients to purchase lenses without a prescription;
  5. Ensuring consumers are well-informed about patient agency, and preventing retailers' deceptive practices to assert patient agency;
  6. Stopping retailers from encouraging patients to stockpile lenses that far exceed the prescription length;
  7. Stopping retailers' business practices that misguide patients on the requirements of the Rule;
  8. Shutting down retailers that do not following the requirements of the Rule and target patients through social media and e-commerce sites;
  9. Ensuring retailers provide a reliably accessible live-contact person for doctors to discuss prescription problems, as outlined in the Rule.

The PVCS coalition (comprised of AOA, Alcon, Bausch & Lomb, Cooper Vision, and Johnson & Johnson Vision Care) will continue to be active in enlisting Congressional support on the implementation of these comments.

“The process to review the Contact Lens Rule promises to be a lengthy one. AOA is fully mobilizing now,” added Dr. Loomis.

“Along with the members of the PVCS, we’ll be all over Capitol Hill conducting briefings in the offices of Senators and House members on the Contact Lens Rule and the need to make patient health and safety the priority we know it needs to be.”
Pertaining to the Eyeglasses Rule, the AOA's comments encouraged the FTC to take action by:

  1. Ensuring that state laws regarding prescription requirements are respected and not contradicted by federal regulations that are not supported by federal statute;
  2. Guarding against retailers' deceptive information about what is required in a prescription;
  3. Stopping retailers' misinformation that devalues the need for appropriate eye care;
  4. Clarifying what the Rule currently indicates regarding eyeglasses prescriptions;
  5. Establishing safeguards that ensure patients receive high quality eyeglasses that appropriately address patients' eye care needs regardless of where the glasses are purchased;
  6. Ensuring that the Contact Lens Rule's inadequate passive verification system is not replicated for eyeglass sales.

The FTC will review all feedback from the public comment period before deciding whether to propose specific changes to the rules.

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