AOA Contact Lens watchdog group to track, report illegal contact lens sales

February 23, 2015
Group seeks to remove illegal lenses from marketplace

An AOA-organized watchdog group will sniff out illegal contact lens sales online and in brick-and-mortar shops.

"Contact lens sellers who ignore state and federal laws must be held accountable."

Organized by the AOA's Contact Lens and Cornea Section (CLCS), the AOA Contact Lens watchdog group will research any violation of federal law and regulations related to contact lens sales. It also will work with AOA staff to report these incidents and take additional action.

"Contact lens sellers who ignore state and federal laws must be held accountable. The AOA is continuing to work to identify and report these sellers in the interest of public health," says AOA President David A. Cockrell, O.D. 

Proper contact lens use is a priority for the AOA, which has a campaign to alert consumers of the dangers of purchasing contact lenses without a prescription. The AOA's 2014 American Eye-Q® consumer survey found that 50% of respondents who wore decorative contact lenses purchased them without a prescription.

"While continuing the public information message is vital, this alarming trend calls for an additional approach," says CLCS Chairman Thomas Quinn, O.D. The goal of the AOA Contact Lens watchdog group is to remove such lenses from the marketplace, he says.

Group will monitor sales

The watchdog group will include two arms:

  1. A chair in each state who will track sales at gas stations, flea markets, and other venues.
  2. An Internet subgroup that will focus on online sales.

Circle lenses, which give the illusion of larger eyes and may emerge as a trend in 2015, offer an example of the types of activities the watchdog group may be tracking in the coming year.

"Noncorrective lenses pose the same potential health and safety risks as other contact lenses," notes Steven Loomis, O.D., AOA's president-elect. "When these lenses are sold without a prescription, retailers are exposing patients to potential harm. The AOA and the new watchdog group are working to stop unscrupulous retailers that put patients at risk."

Anyone who suspects illegal contact lens sale activity can report these retailers to: stopillegalCLs@aoa.org. These reports will allow for improved tracking of illegal sales and adverse events, Dr. Quinn says.

"It will also allow data to be compiled that can be presented to government agencies, highlighting the problem of illegal contact lens sales," according to Dr. Quinn.

For more information, contact Kara Webb, AOA associate director for coding and regulatory policy, at kcwebb@aoa.org. The AOA also has information for reporting illegal contact lens sales and contact lens safety.

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