Its '31 in 31' campaign is underway.

The American Optometric Association says it's looking to "put a scare" into retailers who illegally distribute corrective, novelty or bogus contact lenses.

AOA's annual "31 in 31" letter-writing campaign gets under way this month. The group explains on its website that over the course of the month, it calls out online vendors, brick-and-mortar shops and other sellers who may be distributing contacts to the public without valid prescriptions, in violation of the Fairness to Contact Lens Consumers Act and Contact Lens Rule.

The letters, copied to the Federal Trade Commission and Food and Drug Administration, are disseminated to businesses reported to AOA's hotline, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

"All contact lenses, even those that are only intended to change the appearance of the eye, require a prescription," reads the letter signed by Samuel D. Pierce, O.D., president of AOA. "The AOA would like for your company to be aware that the Food and Drug Administration regulates contacts as medical devices.

"As such, we believe it is dangerous to consumers to sell such devices to individuals within the United States without appropriate prescriber supervision."

With Halloween fast approaching, now is a good time optometrists to warn patients about the perils of purchasing decorative contact lens without prescriptions, the group adds.

Decorative lenses are particularly popular among young adults and teenagers as accessories to their costumes. FDA warns the public not to buy easily accessible decorative contact lenses from street vendors, salons and beauty supply stores, boutiques, flea markets, seasonal retailers, convenience stores and internet sites that don't require prescriptions.

Although not a regulatory enforcement entity, the AOA notes on its website that it "takes seriously its central mission of serving as a resource to the public for reliable and current information related to eye and vision care, as well as safeguarding patients' eye health." 

"Unfortunately, some companies are exploiting loopholes in the FCLCA to make sales," Pierce said. "Through our 31 in 31 campaign, we urge these companies to reverse their policies of illegally distributing corrective, novelty or bogus contact lenses without valid prescriptions in violation of federal law. These sales potentially put patients at risk for sight-threatening complications. It's a matter of public safety."

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