Patient Victory in South Carolina Decision To Dismiss Baseless Opternative Lawsuit

January 30, 2018

St. Louis, Missouri - 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 applaud the order by a South Carolina court to dismiss a baseless lawsuit threatening the safety and security of patients across the state.

The lawsuit was initiated by Opternative, the developer of an online vision app that does not meet the recognized standard of care by being unable to diagnose eye or systemic conditions and diseases. Its dismissal underscores the importance of protecting patient care and preserving the doctor-patient relationship.

The Eye Care Consumer Protection Law
(S. 1016), which was supported by public health groups including the AOA, SCOPA and the South Carolina Medical Association, passed in 2016 by large, bipartisan majorities in the state legislature to ensure that technology and telehealth services enhance care, deliver the best outcomes and strengthen the doctor-patient relationship at the heart of sound health care decision-making. With this decision, two branches of the South Carolina government are prioritizing quality patient care. 

"This ruling puts the health and safety of patients ahead of the for-profit business interests of Opternative," said Barbara L. Horn, O.D., AOA vice president and practicing doctor in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. "The court's determination reinforces the critical role of family eye doctors serving communities across the state and demonstrates that supporters of the Eye Care Consumer Protection Law are working to protect the wellbeing of patients." 

Apps such as Opternative, not approved by the U.S. Food & Drug Administration, claim to produce refractive prescriptions without an in-person examination by an eye care professional. Such apps cannot assess a patient's overall medical condition and can give patients a false sense of security, potentially causing them to forego eye- and life-saving treatment. 

"In-person, comprehensive eye exams are the gold standard when it comes to protecting and preserving patients' eye and vision health," Christopher J. Quinn, O.D., AOA president, said. "AOA, SCOPA and doctors of optometry across the country will continue to advocate for our patients and their health." 

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