While some consumers purchase contact lenses from their eye doctor that prescribes them, many will also choose to obtain their lenses from other vendors that will fill their prescriptions, often for considerable savings in price over that charged at the eye doctor’s office. Seeing a loss in revenue, industry groups representing eye doctors are supporting legislation that would impose draconian regulations on those vendors that would severely restrict consumer choices.
The eye care practitioners and contact lens manufacturers have a long history of opposing consumer choices so they can make more money on contact lens sales. The American Optometry Association (AOA), the trade group representing eye care practitioners, has strongly sides with eyes doctors, and against other vendors of contact lenses, in opposing customer choice.
In 1996, 32 state attorneys general sued AOA and the three largest makers of contact lenses, accusing them of not providing consumers their prescriptions, and engaging in other practices to make it tougher for vendors to sell contact lenses at wholesale prices. The AOA falsely claimed that contact lenses purchased outside the eye doctors offices were somehow less safe. This claim was debunked by a 1997 investigation by 17 state attorneys general that found contact lenses purchased at eye care practitioners offices were no more safe than those purchased from other vendors.
Johnson & Johnson is the largest maker of contact lenses, holding about 40 percent of the market share. Last year they spent about $6.4 million on lobbying, promoting the false “safety” message on behalf of contact lenses sold by eye care practitioners, and seeking restrictions in their favor and against other contact lens vendors.