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    1-800 Contacts ramps up legislative fights

     

    Proposed federal contact lens regulations

    At the federal level, a new bill would amend the Fairness to Contact Lens Consumers Act of 2004 (FCLCA) to require contact lens retailers to provide a toll-free telephone number and email address that prescribers can use to ask questions about a seller’s prescription verification request.

    S.B. 2777 is sponsored by Sen. Bill Cassidy, MD (R-LA).

    “It’s a bill that brings common-sense practices to this business of prescribing contact lenses,” says Dr. Loomis. “S.B. 2777 provides for more communication between the seller and the prescriber of the contact lens.”  

    Under FCLCA, a prescription is considered verified if the prescriber fails to communicate with the retailer within eight business hours after receiving the seller-provided verification information. This passive verification practice is one of the biggest complaints from optometrists.

    Related: Industry panel talks state of contact lens industry

    While Optometry Times Editorial Advisory Board member Crystal Brimer, OD, FAAO, says she’s seen a decrease in the number of her patients who choose to buy lenses online, she is familiar with the flaws in the verification process.

    “We used to get faxes after hours and on weekends asking for prescription verification—mainly expired prescriptions—knowing we couldn't respond in time, and [retailers] would be allowed to fill the prescription based on patients’ existing boxes,” she says. “I think that’s the biggest danger: it seems that my patients who resorted to online sales did so because their prescriptions had expired, and they didn’t think they needed another exam.”

    When a prescriber has questions about the accuracy or verification of the Rx, S.B. 2777 requires that the prescription be considered unverified until the seller obtains affirmative confirmation of its accuracy from the prescriber. The prescriber must call or email questions before the end of that eight-hour period. The bill also removes the Federal Trade Commission’s (FTC) authority to adjust the eight-hour period.

    According to the bill, if a prescriber asks a question before the deadline, the seller shall not fill the prescription, and the prescriber shall provide the seller with an accurate prescription.

    The bill would alleviate some of the problems Optometry Times Editorial Advisory Board member David Geffen, OD, FAAO, has experienced, just like many of his fellow ODs.

    “We have received verification requests on Friday evenings and are asked to respond within a short time frame,” he says. “We are not open Saturday and have found that patients may have requested contact lenses which we did not prescribe. By the time we respond on Monday, the order has shipped out.”

    1-800 Contacts strongly opposes S.B. 2777 and formed a coalition to fight it.

    In April 2016, 1-800 Contacts formed a coalition with Costco Wholesale and Lens.com, calling themselves the Coalition for Contact Lens Consumer Choice.

    More contact lenses: JJVC discontinues UPP, looks to support contact lens advocacy

    In a statement, the companies say the coalition will work to:

    • Protect contact lens consumers by educating the public about the benefits of the FCLCA

    • Advocate for a competitive contact lens marketplace that gives consumers more choice, greater convenience, and lower prices

    • Oppose efforts by the AOA to gut the FCLCA in order to increase its own profits at the expense of consumers

    The coalition started a petition in April 2016 at keepcontactlenschoice.org, urging Congress to reject any legislation that would restrict where patients could buy their contact lenses. 1-800 Contacts told Optometry Times that to date, more than 71,000 people have signed that petition.

    Next: Updating the Contact Lens Rule

    Colleen E. McCarthy
    Colleen McCarthy is a freelance writer based in the Cleveland area and a former editor of Optometry Times. She is a 2010 graduate of the ...

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