AOA and Health Care Alliance Find Proposed Changes to Contact Lens Rule Come Up Short

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NEW YORK—The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) earlier this month updated the changes it proposes for the Contact Lens Rule, but two leading optometry groups have stated their opposition to some elements of the FTC’s revised proposal. The American Optometric Association (AOA) and Health Care Alliance for Patient Safety (Alliance) in recent days have noted their discontent with some of the points in the revised rule proposal. Alliance chair Deanna Alexander, OD, said in a statement, “The FTC’s proposed rule does recognize important issues with the contact lens market, but it does not fully address patient safety concerns around robocall verification of contact lens prescriptions or the ongoing enforcement of illegal substitution for what the patient’s doctor has prescribed.”

Among the changes the FTC proposed in its most recent update are new ways in which prescribers would have to satisfy a “Confirmation of Prescription Release” requirement that the agency has proposed. These include providing the patient with a digital copy of the prescription, and retaining evidence that it was sent, received or made accessible, downloadable, and printable, as VMAIL reported. In its announcement, the FTC said it believes the proposed modifications “will achieve the goals of its original proposal, while imposing less of a burden on prescribers.”

AOA also noted that it supports some of the FTC’s proposed changes, but it continues to oppose the FTC recommendation requiring contact lens prescribers to obtain a signed form from patients indicating they received their contact lens prescription, according to a statement posted on its website. The association said it also “remains opposed to the use of robocalls to confirm contact lens prescriptions.”

The Alliance, in its statement, acknowledged that the “FTC shared its concern about the misuse of the prescription verification process to substitute a different brand or manufacturer of lenses,” and that the Alliance agrees with the FTC that contact lens brands are not interchangeable and that substitution is a growing problem in the market. “[But] the Alliance believes that greater enforcement is necessary to ensure that patients receive the exact lenses prescribed by their doctor,” the statement noted.

In its announcement earlier on May 2, 2019, the FTC said it voted 5-0 to approve publication of the Supplemental NPRM in the Federal Register.

Written comments must be received within 60 days of the date the notice is published. However, as of Monday, the notice had not yet been published in the Federal Register, according to the AOA. The AOA also said it is developing its comments to file with the FTC and it is asking members to help with this effort by completing a survey, available here.

Individual comments to the FTC can be filed electronically at regulations.gov, by following the instructions on the web-based form, the FTC said.