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AOA Warns of Illegal Contact Lens Sales Ahead of Halloween

The ’31 in 31′ letter-writing campaign runs throughout October.

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The American Optometric Association has rolled out its annual “31 in 31” letter-writing campaign to put scrutiny on online retailers, brick-and-mortar shops and other sellers who distribute contact lenses without valid prescriptions.

To date, the campaign has identified over 150 retailers — with support from doctors of optometry nationwide— that the AOA has contacted to inform of the U.S. law regarding the sale of contact lenses. The letters are copied to the FDA and the Federal Trade Commission for appropriate intervention as necessary. (The AOA is not a regulatory enforcement agency.)

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“Decorative contact lenses are a popular accessory come Halloween that many people mistakenly assume are not only one-size-fits all but also can safely be ordered online or simply purchased from a costume store,” said Jason Compton, OD, AOA Contact Lens and Cornea Section chair. “That’s absolutely not the case — all contact lenses, whether corrective or decorative, are medical devices that require the fit and prescription of an eye doctor. Without this critical step, without an up-to-date contact lens prescription to purchase your lenses, people run the very real risk of putting a product on their eye that could threaten their vision and overall ocular health.”

The AOA notes that contact lenses — even those that are only intended to change the appearance of the eye — that require an eye doctor’s prescription and oversight to purchase. This requirement is outlined by the Fairness to Contact Lens Consumers Act and the Contact Lens Rule.

In sidestepping the requirements, some vendors “not only peddle counterfeit or knock-off lenses unsuitable for healthy wear but also lenses that may contain harmful contaminants,” according to the AOA.

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“As doctors of optometry, we know all too well the consequences of improper contact lens wear and care,” Compton said. “When we encounter these instances, especially when there’s a contact lens vendor that’s sidestepping health and safety laws, it’s important that doctors report their findings so appropriate actions can be taken to protect our patients.”

AOA provides the following options for reporting illegal sales or adverse events related to contact lenses:

For more information on illegal retailer or incident reporting, contact the AOA’s Director for Coding and Regulatory Policy Kara Webb at [email protected].

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