AOA’s Annual ‘31 in 31’ Campaign Targets Illegal Contact Lens Sales During October

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ST. LOUIS—With Halloween approaching in three weeks, the American Optometric Association (AOA) is launching its annual “31 in 31” letter-writing campaign, calling out online vendors, brick-and-mortar shops and other sellers who may be distributing contact lenses to the public without valid prescriptions. This is a violation of the Fairness to Contact Lens Consumers Act and the Contact Lens Rule, AOA noted. The letters, which are copied to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), are disseminated to businesses reported to the AOA for offering the unapproved lenses.

Doctors can report suspected violations to the AOA here or direct questions to StopIllegalCLs@aoa.org

Separately, the Centers for Disease Control last week advised consumers against using decorative contact lenses without a valid prescription. CDC said unless the lenses are prescribed or checked out by an eyecare professional, it’s best to skip the colored contacts this Halloween.

In the four years since AOA launched its “letter” campaign, 124 retailers have been informed by the AOA of the law on the sale of illegal contacts, which are considered regulated medical devices.

“Decorative contact lenses are a cool accessory to a Halloween costume but only if they're prescribed and fitted by a doctor of optometry," AOA president Barbara L. Horn, OD, said in an AOA statement. “Unfortunately, people may buy their decorative lenses illegally without a prescription from a street vendor, at a beauty supply store, on the internet, or in a novelty shop. The consequences for their vision can be very serious.”

Doctors of optometry are well aware of the risks to their patients from contaminated, poorly fitted decorative lenses, Horn noted.

Although the AOA is not a regulatory enforcement agency, one of its key missions is to serve as a resource to the public for reliable and current information related to safe management of contact lenses, its announcement said.