Opternative Expands into Mexico, its First International Market

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CHICAGO—Opternative has entered into a partnership with Mexican optical retailer Ben & Frank, a move that will, for the first time, give consumers outside the U.S. access to its online vision test. The results of the test, which has been available to American consumers for several years, are used to generate prescription for eyeglasses or contact lenses. “Launching our first international partnership with Ben & Frank is a big step forward in reaching our vision to create a world where eyecare is available to anyone, anywhere, anytime,” said Brent Rasmussen, CEO, Opternative. “We’re excited to continue bringing affordable and accurate online vision tests to many other patients worldwide in 2018.”

Mariana Castillo, CEO, Ben & Frank, remarked, “Partnering with Opternative allows us to provide an affordable eyewear experience from start to finish. Our customers can now complete both an online vision test and an eyewear purchase at a reasonable price.”

Rasmussen told VMAIL that Opternative is also working with four other optical retailers in Mexico, although he declined to identify them. He said an English language version of the test is already available in Mexico, and that a Spanish language version will be released in the U.S., Mexico and Central and South America beginning Aug. 15.

Rasmussen said that more 300,000 people in the U.S. have taken Opternative’s online vision test over the past several years, and more than 200,000 prescriptions have been issued. “Some patients are disqualified to take the test, and we recommend them directly to an optometrist,” he noted.

Opternative has also begun implementing its technology internationally with partners in Australia, Canada, Finland, Germany, Iceland, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, South Africa, Sweden, and the U.K. “We’ll be live with partners in 16 countries by the end of 2018,” Rasmussen said.

Opternative has run into stiff resistance from optometric associations that have mounted legal challenges in some states in the U.S., and is also under scrutiny from the Federal Food and Drug Adminstration. On Oct. 30, 2017, Opternative received a warning letter from the FDA advising that the company’s online eye examination mobile app does not have the agency’s marketing clearance or approval and is in violation of the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act. The FDA asked Opternative to submit a premarket submission of information that would allow the agency to evaluate the app’s safety and effectiveness.

Rasmussen told VMAIL that Opternative has completed a clinical trial with a CRO (Contract Resource Organization, an independent, third-party organization that performs clinical testing) and is submitting the results to the FDA. “We’re working very closely with the FDA each and every week to ensure accuracy and efficiency,” he said.

Opternative could face similar legal challenges as it expands internationally, depending upon the regulations of each market it enters. Rasmussen said Opternative will work with its local partners to navigate potential regulatory issues.

“We will only enter a market outside the U.S. with a partner,” he explained, adding that the company’s international partnership are non-exclusive. “We’re pursuing an omnichannel solution with partners that are both online and brick and mortar, and some that are only brick and mortar without e-commerce presence.”