In the News

Oct 27, 2016

Don’t Let Congress Control Your Contact Lens Choices

By Eric Peters –

Ever wonder why reading glasses are so easy to get—and inexpensive to buy?

Perhaps it’s because you can walk into any drug store or supermarket pharmacy and try on a pair, find the one that works for you, and buy them … without having to ask permission (or pay for the privilege) first?

You don’t need a prescription to shop around for reading glasses. Why should you have to get a prescription for contacts?

They are not a drug. You can’t “overdose” on them, or sell them to kids on the street corner (unless they’re near-sighted). Nonetheless, a prescription is required—and not only that, the prescription is often brand-name specific.

Congress Is Dictating How and Where You Buy Contacts

A law—the disingenuously named Contact Lens Consumer Health Protection Act—requires this. It states: “…contact lenses must be dispensed exactly as the prescription is written by the doctor.” This law, originally passed back in 2004, gave eye doctors and contact lens manufacturers a monopoly in the literal sense of the word, because it was enforced by law. Patients have no choice but to get (and pay for) exactly what the doctor ordered.

Interestingly, the majority of the scripts written are for contacts made by Johnson & Johnson, which dominates the contact lens market—and thus enjoys, via congressional edict, a legislated market for its products. As the Church Lady used to say on “Saturday Night Live,” “How convenient!”

An attempt was made to undo this medical rent-seeking by requiring doctors to issue more than just one name-brand scrip—thus making it possible for patients to shop around for contacts other than those made by Johnson & Johnson…

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