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    Contact lens commoditization: Looking forward and back

    Contact lenses are increasingly viewed as a commodity, not a medical device, especially in recent years with pressure through legislation from online retailers.

    In business literature, commoditization means a lack of meaningful differentiation in goods. Commoditized products are largely sold on the basis of price, not brand. This process would create the perception that all contact lenses are created equally in the eyes of the consumer.

    Our job as eye care professionals is to provide our patients with the best possible options for their personal visual demands. Contact lenses are one of the primary correcting options and, the desire to wear them spans centuries (see box, “History of contact lenses”).

    Medical devices are not commodities

    Contact lenses have been and are considered a medical device. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) functions “not only as industry regulator and consumer protector, but also as scientific advisor and consumer educator regarding medical devices, drugs, foods, cosmetics, and veterinary medicine. Medical devices are regulated within the Center for Devices and Radiological Health. Contact lenses are regulated under the authority of the medical device amendments.”2

    Most contact lenses that are removed daily fall within Class II medical device category. They are in this class as they “provide a reasonable assurance and safety and effectiveness”. Other things regulated in this category are x-ray systems. Extended wear contact lenses are regulated as Class III medical devices because they pose a higher risk of injury. This is the same category as heart valves and pacemakers.3

    Jason Miller, OD, MBA, FAAO
    Dr. Miller is a partner in a three-doctor private practice in Powell, OH, and he is an adjunct faculty member for The Ohio State ...


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