National Consumers League director speaks out on contact lens safety

Online contact lens sellers' aggressive marketing tactics might lead more consumers away from the beneficial necessity of an eye exam with their eye doctor, and "that's a recipe for trouble," says a leading consumer protection authority.

Sally Greenberg, executive director of the National Consumers League in Washington, D.C., posted an alert for consumers on Wednesday, titled, "Contact Lens Essentials: Choice, Competition and Safety," that detailed how her own experience with a contact lens-derived keratitis infection opened her eyes to the importance of annual eye exams and potentially harmful business practices sometimes employed by profit-driven contact lens resellers.

"As I learned, saving a few dollars on contact lenses might end up costing hundreds or thousands of dollars in the long run if you end up getting an infection, or worse," Greenberg writes.

She continues: "In that vein, as a consumer advocate, I worry that internet-based contact lens mass retailers sometimes use aggressive sales tactics more fitting of general consumer products than of prescription lenses. Purchasing contact lenses online is convenient ... but consumers who bypass the involvement of a doctor of optometry in their eye care, in my view, do so at a serious risk."

Greenberg participated in the health policy listening session, "Patient Vision Safety: A Discussion on How to Best Protect Contact Lens Patients," during the AOA Congressional Advocacy Conference, April 17-19, alongside federal and industry stakeholders.

That listening session came a week after Sen. Bill Cassidy, M.D., (R-Louisiana), introduced S. 2777, the Contact Lens Consumer Health Protection Act of 2016, to crack down on internet sales tactics and schemes that deceive the public, risk patient health and add to health care costs. The AOA-backed bill was key in AOA members' discussions with their legislators during the recent conference.