How AOA is keeping contact lens wearers safe this spooky season

October 11, 2023
The AOA’s 31 in 31 campaign once again scrutinizes retailers in the contact lens market who sell their patients upstream when it comes to valid prescriptions.
Woman putting Halloween contact lenses in her eyes

Each October, the 31 in 31 annual advocacy campaign connects with online retailers, brick-and-mortar shops and other sellers who distribute contact lenses without valid prescriptions, in violation of federal law.

The campaign has identified more than 150 retailers the AOA has directly contacted to inform them of the law regarding the sale of contact lenses. Doctors of optometry are central to identifying these companies—especially during this time of year when people are purchasing Halloween costumes, including decorative contact lenses.

“Contact lenses are medical devices that are required by law to be fit by licensed practitioners to keep patients safe and optimize their wearing experience,” says Mile Brujic, O.D., chair of the AOA’s Contact Lens & Cornea Section (CLCS). “Anyone retailing them without an appropriate prescription needs to be held accountable for the safety of the people we care for.”

While the AOA is not a regulatory enforcement entity, it has a central mission to serve as a resource to the public for reliable and current information related to eye care and health care policy.

The AOA sends a letter to companies that violate these federal laws, in part saying that “all contact lenses, even those that are only intended to change the appearance of the eye, require a prescription. The AOA would like for your company to be aware that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulates contacts as medical devices. The improper wear and care of contact lenses can cause eye infections that can lead to serious, long-term damage, including vision loss. As such, we believe it is dangerous to consumers to sell such devices to individuals within the United States without appropriate prescriber supervision.”

Paul Velting, O.D., immediate past chair of the CLCS, shared last year that “without reports from doctors of optometry, we don't know which companies are the most frequent offenders. Reports from actual patient experiences are extremely important.”

Copies of those letters are also sent to federal agencies, such as the FDA.

Report suspicious sales and resources for practices

Here's how doctors of optometry can help the AOA serve as a resource to the public for reliable and current information related to safe management of contact lenses:

For more information on illegal retailer or incident reporting, contact Kara Webb at kcwebb@aoa.org.

The AOA provides patient- and public-oriented resources on decorative contact lenses (videos, social media posts, a press release and more) and information on the risk of buying decorative lenses online during Halloween.

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