Ophthalmic Practice Rules ("Prescription Release Rule")

For Your Information


The Federal Trade Commission is seeking public comment on whether to modify, rescind or retain the provisions of the Ophthalmic Practice Rules which requires eye care practitioners to release eyeglass prescriptions to their patients -- the "Prescription Release Rule." The Commission seeks public comment about the overall costs and benefits of the Prescription Release Rule and its economic impact. Comments on the rule will be accepted until June 2, 1997.

The FTC's request for comment is part of its periodic review of all rules and guides. The notice appearing in today's Federal Register summarizes the rules and lists the specific questions on which the agency seeks comments.

The Prescription Release Rule, promulgated in 1978, requires that optometrists and ophthalmologists provide their patients with a copy of the patients' eyeglass prescription immediately after an eye exam is completed and at no extra cost. The rule also prohibits optometrists and ophthalmologists from conditioning the availability of an eye exam on a requirement that patients agree to buy their ophthalmic goods from the optometrist or ophthalmologist. The rule further prohibits optometrists or ophthalmologists from placing on prescriptions or giving to patients, certain disclaimers or waivers of liability.

In 1985, the Commission published a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking seeking comments on, among other things, whether the prescription release requirement should be modified or repealed. After reviewing the rulemaking record, the Commission decided to retain the automatic release aspect of the rule, stating that there was still significant noncompliance with the automatic release requirement and that there continued to be a lack of consumer awareness about prescription rights. The Commission also determined not to extend the Prescription Release Rule to contact lens prescriptions, concluding that there was not sufficient reliable evidence to determine that the refusal to release contact lens prescriptions is an unfair act or practice.

The Commission seeks public comment on the following questions relating to the Prescription Release Rule:

  • Is there a continuing need for the rule? What benefits has the rule provided to purchasers of eye exams and eyeglasses, to opticians or others affected by the rule? Has the rule imposed costs on purchasers?
  • What changes, if any, should be made to increase the benefits of the rule to purchasers, opticians or others? How would these changes affect the costs the rule imposes on eye care practitioners subject to its requirements?
  • What significant burdens or costs has the rule imposed on eye care practitioners? Has the rule provided benefits to them?
  • What changes, if any, should be made to the rule to reduce the burdens or costs imposed on eye care practitioners? How would these changes affect the benefits provided by the rule?
  • Does the rule overlap or conflict with other federal, state, or local law or regulations? and
  • Since the rule was issued, what effects, if any, have changes in technology or economic conditions had on the rule?

In addition, the notice contains several additional questions relating specifically to the Prescription Release Rule, including: whether the prescription release requirement, if retained, should be modified to require eye care practitioners to provide the prescription only upon request rather than automatically to all patients; and whether the rule should be extended to require the release of contact lens prescriptions. The notice alwso asks whether there should be changes made to the prohibition on the use of certain waivers or disclaimers of liability.

The Commission vote to publish the Federal Register notice was 5-0.

Comments should be identified as "16 CFR Part 456 Comment" and addressed to the Office of the Secretary, FTC, Room 159, 6th Street and Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20580.

Copies of the Federal Register notice announcing the solicitation of comments are available from the FTC's Public Reference Branch, Room 130, at the above address; 202-326-2222; TTY for the hearing impaired 1-866-653-4261. To find out the latest FTC news as it is announced, call the FTC's NewsPhone recording at 202-326-2710. FTC news releases and other materials also are available on the Internet at the FTC's World Wide Web Site at: http://www.ftc.gov

(FTC Matter Number R011001)

Contact Information

Media Contact:
Brenda A. Mack
Office of Public Affairs
202-326-2182
Staff Contact:
Renate Kinscheck
Bureau of Consumer Protection
202-326-3283