By Dean Chambers –
If our eye doctors and their cronies in the contact lens industry get their way, consumers are likely to pay more for contact lenses because of having few if any choices of where to buy them. Right now, after getting a prescription for contact lenses, a consumer can either purchase them at the eye doctor’s office, or get them from another vendor at considerable savings. Either way, the same contact lenses fit for a consumer’s prescription can be purchased, but the vendors can sell them as a lower cost in most instances than the eye care practitioner’s office.
The largest manufacturer of contact lenses, Johnson & Johnson, that has about a 40 percent market share in the industry, spent about $6.4 million last year to lobby for regulations on contact lens sales on the debunked claim that contact lenses sold by online vendors are somehow less safe than those sold at higher prices by Optometrists.
The American Optometry Association (AOA) is the trade association representing the Optometrists. Representing the Optometrists’ interests in selling more contact lenses from their office, the AOA has put out the message that contact lenses purchased from the vendors are less safe than those purchased at the eye doctor’s office. The AOA and contact lens makers such as Johnson & Johnson, Bausch & Lomb, CooperVision, and Alcon have created an AstroTurf front group, to reinforce the false safety messaging, called The Coalition for Patient Vision Care Safety. The only safety this group represents is that of their cronies in the eye doctor industry to make money money selling contact lenses at higher prices by restricting consumer choices.
Johnson & Johnson, as well as other contact lens makers, support enaction of the “Contact Lens Consumer Health Protection Act“ (S. 2777), that would impose very complex regulations, including restrictions related to verifying prescriptions and communicating with eye doctors offices, that would raise vendors’ cost of doing business and undercut their ability to pass savings along to customers. In short, the regulations would undermine those vendors that offer consumers choices, and lead to customers purchasing contact lenses far more often at the eye doctors offices.