February 06, 2017
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Coalition recommends changes to Contact Lens Rule

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The Coalition for Patient Vision Care Safety and Johnson & Johnson Vision Care Inc. recommended sales quantity limits and email communication over robocalls in comments submitted in response to the Proposed Rule Concerning the Contact Lens Rule, which was issued by the FTC in December 2016.

Executive members of the Coalition for Patient Vision Care Safety include the American Optometric Association, Alcon, Bausch + Lomb, CooperVision and Johnson & Johnson Vision Care (JJVCI).

“Congress certainly did not intend to establish policies that would hinder the ability of eye care professionals to play their proper role in maintaining the health of the patient; however, the coalition believes that certain aspects of the original Contact Lens Rule have had this effect in actual practice,” the coalition wrote in its Jan. 30, 2017, letter to the FTC.

In the letter, the coalition recommended the following for the FTC’s consideration:

  • Robocalls should not be considered within the act’s definition of “direct communication.” In practice, this would likely mean that email would become the preferred method of communication for many sellers.
  • Reasonable sales quantity limits should be implemented when the seller knows the prescription’s expiration date.
  • The FTC should prohibit online sellers from suggesting a patient reorder contact lenses before the prescription expires to avoid the need to “see your doctor.”
  • Increase enforcement activities when sellers illegally substitute contact lenses for the lenses specified in the prescription.
  • The FTC should not establish a signed acknowledgment requirement for prescribers, as no evidence indicates a need for this requirement.
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“In the proposed rule, the FTC is careful to present the views of all commenters, but in the end, the agency apparently accepts survey and anecdotal evidence from sellers but not from prescribers and manufacturers,” the coalition wrote in the letter. “The coalition reluctantly concludes that the decisions made by the FTC in the proposed rule appear to be arbitrary and capricious.”

In separate comments from JJVCI, the company said it strongly agrees with the FTC’s commitment to preserving and enforcing the rule’s prohibition of sellers substituting contact lenses unless the substitution involves private label lenses made by the same manufacturer but sold under the labels of other sellers.

In response to the FTC’s proposal to remove the term “private label” from Section 315.5(e), the FTC has cited no specific reports from vendors or other stakeholders having issues understanding the term private label as part of the existing rule’s language on substitution, JJVCI wrote. Continued use of private label is an important clarification on the only specific instance in which the alteration of a prescription or substitution of lenses other than those expressly listed on a prescription is acceptable, according to the company’s statement.

JJVCI strongly agreed with the FTC rationale that maintaining the rule’s minimum 1-year contact lens expiration date provides a safety net against improper dispensing.

Finally, JJCVI supports the ongoing efforts to ensure consumer access to their prescribed lenses from a range of options including online retailers and eye care professionals.