AOA Statement on Opternative and Institute of Justice Lawsuit Against South Carolina

October 20, 2016

Media contact:
Deirdre Middleton, 703.837.1437

Controversial Vision App Launches New Attack on South Carolina Patient Safety Law

St. Louis - The American Optometric Association (AOA), the nation's leading authority on eye health and vision care, the South Carolina Optometric Physicians Association (SCOPA) and member doctors serving communities across South Carolina continue to support the state's landmark patient protection law - recently approved by near unanimous bi-partisan majorities in the legislature in Columbia - that's designed to protect patients from ineffective and unproven online vision services that make false, misleading and harmful product claims. This latest special-interest attack from a company attempting to expand their business in spite of patient safety concerns is unfounded and groundless.  

"Illinois-based Opternative and its law firm, 'The Institute for Justice,' are not concerned about the health care needs of the people of South Carolina," said Barbara L. Horn, OD, AOA secretary-treasurer and doctor of optometry in Conway, SC. "Having lost decisively in our state capital and still lacking any credible research or federal medical device approvals, they've come back to try to impose their profit-driven approach to health care on South Carolina. Their questionable legal tactics will cost the citizens of our state time and money - resources better invested in protecting the health of our patients. South Carolinians deserve better, and my fellow doctors and I, patients and public health experts across the state will continue to speak out and expose their schemes."  

South Carolina Senate Bill 1016, which was supported by the optometric community as well as the South Carolina Medical Association, protects patients by mandating that eye care kiosks and other similar technologies be held accountable and provide the same standard of care that is expected of a qualified and competent eye care physician. 

While apps like Opternative claim to produce eyeglass and contact lens prescriptions without any examination of the patient by an eye care professional and without assessing in person the patient's overall medical condition, they can give inaccurate or misleading information, and misinformed consumers end up delaying essential, sight-saving treatment. In an investigative segment on Good Morning America this year, out of eight patients who used Opternative and then followed up with an eye doctor, one's risk factor for glaucoma was missed and three other participants issued "slightly different" prescriptions.  

The AOA has filed an expansive complaint with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) asking the agency to take action against the online vision test being marketed by Opternative without the type of testing and pre-market approvals frequently required of new medical device technology.  

South Carolina is one of a growing number of states that has enacted critical patient protection safeguards that reinforce the benefits of in-person comprehensive eye examinations, including Alabama, Colorado, Georgia, Indiana, Maine, Michigan, Mississippi, Nebraska, Ohio, Oklahoma, Rhode Island and West Virginia.

Safeguarding patients against companies that tout convenience through ambiguous and sometimes inaccurate claims remains an issue of paramount importance to AOA and affiliates.

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