Contact Lens Rule revisions aren’t enough, AOA says

"The new proposed rule includes recommendations that are direct results of our hard work; however, these changes fall short of what is needed to protect patients and we will persevere."

On May 2, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) released supplementary rulemaking to adjust the Commission's proposed changes to the Contact Lens Rule.

For the past two and a half years, the AOA has opposed the FTC recommendation to require contact lens prescribers to obtain a signed form from their contact lens-wearing patients after the contact lens prescription has been provided. The AOA also continued to urge the FTC to strengthen the rule to prioritize a crackdown on internet retailers violating patient health and safety laws.

"The power of AOA advocacy, when buoyed by the strength of all doctors of optometry speaking with the same voice, is evident in the FTC's recent revisions," says AOA President Samuel D. Pierce, O.D. "The new proposed rule includes recommendations that are direct results of our hard work; however, these changes fall short of what is needed to protect patients and we will persevere."

Key takeaways, next steps

  1. The AOA remains concerned with any FTC requirements that create an additional burden on doctors and their patients. Any additional regulatory requirement on physicians flies in the face of the current administration's effort to address regulatory excess in health care. The AOA has raised these concerns at the highest levels in the executive branch and will continue to do so. The AOA also will continue working to enlist the even more than 100 senators and House members who have already joined the AOA in urging the FTC to withdraw its burdensome requirements and to target illegal contact lens sales and other anti-patient abuses. 

  2. The FTC's initial proposed rule in 2016 included no additional requirements for contact lens retailers. Since then, the AOA has consistently reported dozens of contact lens retailers with dangerous business practices to the FTC. As a result, the May 2019 proposal would impose new requirements on contact lens retailers. The FTC notes these changes are intended to address, in large part, the companies that sell their own brand of lenses, which the AOA has repeatedly reported to the FTC. The FTC noted, "the Commission is aware that more sellers have been entering the market to sell their own brands of lenses directly to consumers, and this, along with a large number of complaints and anecdotal reports of instances of alteration by online sellers-some of which describe vision-threatening injuries-necessitate modifications to the Rule." The FTC also made clear, "any attempt to substitute another lens, including a seller's own brand, for the prescribed lens thwarts the purpose of the Act, which is to allow sellers to sell contact lenses as prescribed by the consumer's eye-care provider." While the FTC must do more to ensure safety in the market, the updated proposal takes aim at true and widespread contact lens retailer issues that the Commission was previously unwilling to act on.

  3. The FTC also has proposed to implement new requirements for robocalls. The FTC indicated, "Concerns about passive verification resulting in patients receiving contact lenses for which they have no prescription are not new and were considered when Congress passed the Fairness to Contact Lens Consumers Act and in the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking in 2016. What is new, however, is the emergence of business models that rely almost exclusively on passive verification as a means to substitute their own brand of daily contact lenses." While the AOA appreciates that the Commission has finally acknowledged how these calls are being used to subvert verification rules, it remains opposed to the use of robocalls to confirm contact lens prescriptions. That is why the AOA will continue to build support for the Contact Lens Prescription Verification Modernization Act. Doctors can click here to reach out to members of Congress in support of this bill. 

  4. The typical rulemaking process involves a proposed rule followed by a public comment period and then a final rule. For this rulemaking, there has been a proposed rule, a public workshop and now supplementary rulemaking with a comment period. It's clear-optometry does not back down when patients are being put at risk.

  5. In the next 60-day comment period, the AOA will develop a response to the FTC proposals and will call on members to make their voices heard. To inform the comments, AOA asks every doctor to complete this survey.

"It is critical that every doctor provides feedback to the survey," AOA President-elect Barbara L. Horn, O.D., says. "Your input will provide us with important information that can help us to best advocate for doctors and our patients."

The May 2, 2019, proposals put forward by the FTC are not final. As it has done over the past two and a half years, the AOA will continue to fight for doctors and their patients. 

May 9, 2019

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