On March 7, 2018, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) held a one-day public workshop entitled “The Contact Lens Rule and the Evolving Contact Lens Marketplace.” The Contact Lens Rule, originally introduced in 2004, implemented the Fairness to Contact Lens Consumers Act (FCLCA). Among its provisions: eye care practitioners are required to provide their patients with a contact lens prescription once a successful fit has been achieved, while also allowing for passive verification; if the doctor fails to respond to a prescription request within eight business hours, the lenses can be provided by the requesting group. In November 2016, on the basis of public comments, the FTC decided that compliance with the Contact Lens Rule could be improved. It proposed that the rule is amended such that each consumer receives not only their contact lens prescription, but also a signed acknowledgment form confirming receipt of the prescription. Prescribers would be required to keep a copy of this form for three years. After receiving thousands of comments pertaining to this amendment, including 800 from doctors alone, the FTC decided to hold this public forum.
This proposed amendment was opposed by the American Optometric Association (AOA) who were present en masse at the FTC program. In fact, the AOA comprised almost all of the attendees, including representatives from the majority of states, AOA Board of Directors, AOA Contact Lens and Cornea Section, and major contact lens industry partners. Missouri was represented by a significant UMSL connection, MOA Executive Director, Dr. Lee Ann Barrett, (’85) and Dr. Ed Bennett, Professor, and Chair of the AOA Contact Lens and Cornea Section.
The AOA successfully lobbied the FTC to have representatives from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), Centers for Disease Control (CDC), and both optometrists and ophthalmologists to stand up for contact lenses as medical devices and to state opposition to the proposed rule change. It was encouraging to hear from both the CDC and the FDA regarding their efforts to educate the public about the care needed when utilizing contact lenses. On the other hand, it was very concerning to hear from those who attempt to discount the classification of contact lenses as regulated medical devices and view contact lenses as a simple product that is just a “barcode on a box.” The Contact Lens and Cornea Section, in particular, has focused efforts on engaging with contact lens retailers who violate federal law and put our patients at risk. There is concern that the FTC hasn’t taken additional steps to crack down on inappropriate retailer practices, and instead has proposed to require that prescribers must obtain a signed acknowledgment receipt after giving a prescription to a patient at the conclusion of a contact lens fitting. The FTC is taking comments on this proposal until April 6, 2018. We encourage you to stand up for your patients and make your voice heard by requesting the FTC to do more to protect patients and to urge them to abandon the misguided new paperwork proposal for doctors. Comments can be submitted online at https://ftcpublic.commentworks.com/ftc/contactlensworkshop/
For Dr. Barrett, this forum reinforced the need to emphasize patient safety: “Attending the FTC hearing on the Contact Lens Rule was an eye-opening experience! Members of the panel from the vendor side of the equation treated contact lenses like more of a commodity than the medical devices that they are. It also became clear that they thought contact lenses should be generic and that you should be able to renew a contact lens prescription through an app. The MOA is supporting SB2011, our patient safety bill. The bill defines a prescription as something obtained from a face to face visit with the doctor. The bill also references Missouri’s telehealth statutes which include optometry. The MOA will be asking you to contact your Senator soon.”