In the News

Apr 19, 2016

Contact Lens Retailers and Optometrists Battle Over Prescription Rules

The seemingly simple process of ordering contact lenses has become a tangled debate between retailers, optometric groups, and lawmakers. At the core of the debate is the contact lens prescription, a ticket to 20/20 vision for an estimated 40 million American consumers. Although the FTC enforces the requirement eye care professionals provide patients a copy of their contact lens prescriptions, as required by the Contact Lens Rule (CLR), it seems many may not be complying. 1-800-Contacts, the largest U.S. contact lens retailer, announced it filed 27,725 potential violations earlier this month with the agency related to optometrists not releasing patient prescriptions.

Cindy Williams, general counsel at 1-800-Contacts, told Healthcare Dive those violations were compiled over from December 2015 to March 2016 showing “how extensive and widespread this problem is.”

How we got to the filing

The prescription verification process is somewhat cumbersome under CLR and requires sellers to confirm the prescription is correct via phone, fax or email. Prescribers have eight hours to respond to that request. If they don’t respond during that time period, the prescription is verified automatically and the seller fills the order. “This is called the passive verification system,” explained Williams. “That was a carefully crafted system that Congress created to balance the interests of the consumers and to create competition in the market given that the prescribers and retailers compete with each other for the sale.”

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