Insights into contact lenses: FTC workshop will focus on the Contact Lens Rule

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The FTC is eyeing its Contact Lens Rule and has announced the agenda for a March 7, 2018 workshop, The Contact Lens Rule and the Evolving Contact Lens Marketplace.

The Contact Lens Rule, in place since 2004, requires prescribers to give patients their complete contact lens prescription after a fitting, whether the patient asks for it or not. The Rule also says that prescribers must verify the prescription – or provide a copy – in response to a request from an authorized third party. With this framework in place, consumers are empowered to comparison shop for the lenses their healthcare professionals have prescribed, if they choose to do so. Giving consumers a “shoppable” prescription promotes competition between prescribers who also sell lenses, various brick-and-mortar retailers, and online retailers.

How well is the Rule working? To what extent are consumers able to comparison shop under the Rule’s prescription release and verification framework? How have new technologies, including electronic health records, affected the prescription verification process? How might other innovations, including telehealth options, impact competition going forward? Would any modifications to the Rule foster additional competition and maximize health and financial benefits to consumers? Are there particular medical or safety issues that should inform discussion of these topics?

To address these questions and more, we are convening a public workshop on March 7th featuring healthcare professionals, industry members, consumer advocates, law enforcers, and others. We are hosting the workshop in conjunction with the FTC’s regulatory review of the Contact Lens Rule. (A Notice of Proposed Rulemaking was issued in December 2016 announcing proposed changes.)

We encourage you to check out the agenda for more details about our roster of speakers. After introductory remarks by Thomas Pahl, Acting Director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection, Panel #1 will offer an overview of the contact lens marketplace. Panel #2 will feature medical professionals sharing insights on the health and safety issues the Rule implicates. Panel #3 will delve into competition in the contact lens marketplace. Panel #4 will examine the prescription verification process and Panel #5 will take on issues surrounding prescription release and consumer choice. The final panel will look to the future, and consider how market disruptors may have an impact on competition, consumer protection, and the Rule.

The event is free and open to the public. Registration begins at 7:45 a.m. at the FTC’s Constitution Center Conference Center, 400 7th Street, S.W., in Washington, DC.

Can’t make it to Washington on March 7th? We’ll post a link on the event page just before 9:00 ET that morning so you can watch the webcast live.

Comments

The contact lens rule is overly protective. Once I had a bought lenses through an optometrist, I bought a variety of other lenses overseas to experiment with other settings. I learned that the best prescription was a bifocal in one eye and mono vision for astigmatism in the other. I went back to my ophthalmologist the following year and suggested the change, which she made and agreed with. The rule pretends that consumers are at grave risk, when anybody who has one set of soft lenses can figure out how to make minor adjustments and test in a way that the usual eye center neither has the time or patience for. The only down side is that a consumer may spend money testing different lenses. The FTC should rule is overly protective and efforts to prevent foreign sellers from selling without prescriptions are misguided. I would never have found the perfect lenses for me without skirting the rule, and I would still be paying for expensive bifocals with an astigmatism in one eye that I didn't need. No one should be dependent on prescription verification when they could sample the market without any harm to themselves. Its high time to eliminate the rule and allow consumers to buy direct at their discretion. By the way, I am a lawyer and used to work for the Bureau of Competition.

I agree with Paul Nolan.

If you had gone to an optometrist you would have gotten it right without doing it the wrong way. I am an optometrist and lots of people harm themselves with contacts. I know this flies in the face of your scientifically astute research (n=1), but you are also poorly informed and biased, as a former FTC employee.
They need more regulation, and your post as the cocky know-it-all who entertains the absurd notions that 1). you know more than the experts do, 2). that since you think you can do it, then everyone should "play around" with an endless supply of foreign-made contacts to do "just fine" (Hubble, incidentally, is made in Taiwan and has been cited previously by the FDA for substandard conditions), and 3). that a patient is at a financial advantage for buying the cheapest item on the market when weighed against medical work, lost wages, and pain and suffering.

If all prices are the same the providers have no incentive to lower prices. This is a good way to kill competition.

BTW your Captcha images are terrible

My vision care specialist DOES NOT release my contact lens prescription information to me after an eye exam. I was unaware of this FTC ruling.

I agree with Paul Nolan's comment.

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