Health Care Alliance for Patient Safety Asks FTC for ‘Immediate Action’ on Contact Lens Rx Verification Issue

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ARLINGTON, Va.—The Health Care Alliance for Patient Safety (APS) has asked the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) for immediate action to protect the eye health and safety of contact lens patients across the country amid the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, according to an announcement this week. The Alliance noted that with many ODs caring for patients via telehealth or working with reduced staff the FTC should “require online retailers to seek written electronic prescription verification [and] enforce federal patient health safeguards related to contact lens sales.” The request to the FTC was included in a letter sent to the agency on May 11.

The Alliance noted that a combination of factors related to COVID-19 has resulted in optometry practices “facing challenges in responding to contact lens prescription verification telephone calls, meaning patients could end up receiving contact lenses other than those they were prescribed.”

In addition, the Alliance noted that while it wants to ensure patients can safely maintain access to contact lenses, “APS members are deeply concerned that online contact lens sellers that continue to violate the patient safety standards as written in the Contact Lens Rule and the Fairness to Contact Lens Consumers Act (FCLCA) pose an increased risk to patient safety during the pandemic.”

The Alliance cited recent Jobson Optical Research data indicating that over 90 percent of respondents’ practices are in a locality under a stay-at-home order, which means doctors are not in their offices unless there is an emergency issue. The data also showed that up to 60 percent of optometrists have had to let go of staff as a result of the pandemic.

In the letter to the FTC, APS chairwoman Deanna Alexander, OD, said: “Certain online retailers’ continuing use of antiquated robocall prescription verification is deeply disturbing during this pandemic when doctors are not physically in the office and/or do not have the staff capacity to answer the calls. Even during normal times, these robocalls require significant follow-up by doctors and their staff, as the information they provide is often incomplete, difficult/impossible to understand, or related to a person who has never been a patient of the eye doctor receiving the call.”

The letter added that “too frequently [the calls] provide no option to replay the call to confirm the information or a valid call-back number to contact if the information about the prescription is incorrect. If we are to properly ensure patient safety and effectively expand available hospital capacity during the COVID-19 pandemic, we must close regulatory loopholes that allow for the sale of nonprescribed lenses that result in patient harm.”

Founded in 2018, the Alliance is made up of the American Optometric Association (AOA), Johnson & Johnson Vision and VSP and associate member CooperVision.