WASHINGTON, D.C.—The comment period on the Federal Trade Commission’s proposed changes to the Contact Lens Rule ended Jan. 30 with more than 4,000 “commenters” submitting their views, including a comment in favor of FTC’s proposed changes that was signed by attorneys general of 20 states.

The next step for the agency is to begin reviewing the comments and then to determine follow-up actions, which could include an array of options, an FTC staff member told VMail. “All sorts of things can be done [next],” the staffer said, noting there are options such as conducting further reviews of the proposed changes based on comments received and/or setting up a workshop as a venue for further discussion. She said the agency is “nowhere near determining” its next steps and has just begun reviewing the comments and weeding out duplicates. (The comments that have been submitted to FTC can be reviewed here, but not all of the 4,000-plus that have been submitted have been posted, according to the FTC staffer.)

As VMail reported, FTC had proposed late last year a number of changes to the existing contact lens dispensing rules, which were first issued in 2004. FTC is updating the regulation as required by law.

The comment signed by the 20 AGs offered support of the agency’s proposed changes, including the provision that prescribers would be required to obtain a signed acknowledgment from each contact lens patient that states: “My eyecare professional provided me with a copy of my contact lens prescription at the completion of my contact lens fitting, and; I understand I am free to purchase contact lenses from the seller of my choice.” Prescribers also would be required to keep a copy of this signed acknowledgement on file (either hard copy or an electronic version) for at least three years, according to the FTC’s proposed rule changes.

In its comment, the AG group noted that the proposed change around this acknowledgement to each patient after a fitting is, in part, intended to “empower consumers to comparison shop for contact lenses, and to spur more competition and innovation among contact lens sellers and manufacturers. We believe that the provision has had the desired impact.”

AGs from the following states signed the joint comment: Iowa, New York, Alabama, Delaware, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Montana, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont and Virginia.

The AGs added, “Many more consumers are now aware of their right to obtain a written prescription, and many are able to take those prescriptions to the contact lens seller of their choice. However, though the provision has been widely accepted and used, it is clear that more can be done to further the goals of the [Fairness to Contact Lens Consumers Act].

“The states are aware, from their enforcement efforts and collective experience, that not all patients receive their prescription in writing as a matter of course. It is equally clear that not all are aware of their right to be provided a prescription which can be filled by any contact lens dealer—not only by their eyecare provider.”

As VMail reported, many other individuals and groups have taken issue with the FTC’s proposed changes. For example, the American Optometric Association (AOA) has urged the FTC not to adopt the proposed new requirements because they “do not address patient safety concerns in the contact lens marketplace.”

In addition, AOA said FTC’s proposed changes “do not exist in the statute, are unnecessary and would impose burdens on eye doctors that will result in higher costs to patients.”

There is no “statutory timeframe” for the agency to adhere to in its work on updating the existing Contact Lens Rule, according to the FTC staff person.