Advocates issue warnings about vision testing, contact lens refills during COVID-19

Deanna Alexander, OD
Deanna Alexander

The Health Care Alliance for Patient Safety is calling on the Federal Trade Commission to increase its enforcement of the federal patient safeguards related to contact lens sales in light of the fact that many optometry practices are not fully operational during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Additionally, the American Optometric Association warns the public to be cautious of “at-home eye exam” or “vision test” product claims.

The alliance said in a press release that it wants to ensure patients can safely maintain access to contact lenses during the pandemic, but the group is concerned that online contact lens sellers will violate the Contact Lens Rule and the Fairness to Contact Lens Consumers Act, especially with robocalls.

Alliance Chair Deanna Alexander, OD, wrote in a letter to the FTC: “Certain online retailers’ continuing use of antiquated robocall prescription verification is deeply disturbing during this pandemic when doctors are not physically in the office and/or do not have the staff capacity to answer the calls.

“If we are to properly ensure patient safety and effectively expand available hospital capacity during the COVID-19 pandemic, we must close regulatory loopholes that allow for the sale of nonprescribed lenses that result in patient harm,” she added.

Members of the alliance include the AOA, Johnson & Johnson Vision, VSP and CooperVision.

The AOA, in an unrelated press release, stated that some companies are asserting that their devices make it easy to conduct an eye exam at home.

“There is no FDA-approved at-home device or app that people can use to self-conduct all of the elements of a proper eye examination,” the AOA said in the release. “The AOA warns that it is more important than ever to be aware of products that give the mistaken impression that their devices can substitute for a comprehensive eye examination or that they can shortcut getting a contact lens or eyeglasses prescription.”

Barbara L. Horn, OD
Barbara L. Horn

AOA President Barbara L. Horn, OD, stressed in the release how comprehensive eye exams are, “a critical component of a patient’s preventive health regimen. During this time, patients should work with their doctors to make use of health technologies that enhance care and not be misled by questionable marketing claims that undermine it.”

The National Consumers League supported the AOA’s stance in a separate press release.

“Consumers need to be wary of products that mistakenly claim that their at-home devices can provide an eye exam or a vision prescription and should instead consult their eye doctors who are available to help provide safe solutions,” the league said in its release.

The AOA noted that optometric practices are beginning to reopen around the country, and both in-person and telehealth protocols are in place to provide contact lens refills and other eye health and vision care.

Deanna Alexander, OD
Deanna Alexander

The Health Care Alliance for Patient Safety is calling on the Federal Trade Commission to increase its enforcement of the federal patient safeguards related to contact lens sales in light of the fact that many optometry practices are not fully operational during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Additionally, the American Optometric Association warns the public to be cautious of “at-home eye exam” or “vision test” product claims.

The alliance said in a press release that it wants to ensure patients can safely maintain access to contact lenses during the pandemic, but the group is concerned that online contact lens sellers will violate the Contact Lens Rule and the Fairness to Contact Lens Consumers Act, especially with robocalls.

Alliance Chair Deanna Alexander, OD, wrote in a letter to the FTC: “Certain online retailers’ continuing use of antiquated robocall prescription verification is deeply disturbing during this pandemic when doctors are not physically in the office and/or do not have the staff capacity to answer the calls.

“If we are to properly ensure patient safety and effectively expand available hospital capacity during the COVID-19 pandemic, we must close regulatory loopholes that allow for the sale of nonprescribed lenses that result in patient harm,” she added.

Members of the alliance include the AOA, Johnson & Johnson Vision, VSP and CooperVision.

The AOA, in an unrelated press release, stated that some companies are asserting that their devices make it easy to conduct an eye exam at home.

“There is no FDA-approved at-home device or app that people can use to self-conduct all of the elements of a proper eye examination,” the AOA said in the release. “The AOA warns that it is more important than ever to be aware of products that give the mistaken impression that their devices can substitute for a comprehensive eye examination or that they can shortcut getting a contact lens or eyeglasses prescription.”

Barbara L. Horn, OD
Barbara L. Horn

AOA President Barbara L. Horn, OD, stressed in the release how comprehensive eye exams are, “a critical component of a patient’s preventive health regimen. During this time, patients should work with their doctors to make use of health technologies that enhance care and not be misled by questionable marketing claims that undermine it.”

The National Consumers League supported the AOA’s stance in a separate press release.

“Consumers need to be wary of products that mistakenly claim that their at-home devices can provide an eye exam or a vision prescription and should instead consult their eye doctors who are available to help provide safe solutions,” the league said in its release.

The AOA noted that optometric practices are beginning to reopen around the country, and both in-person and telehealth protocols are in place to provide contact lens refills and other eye health and vision care.

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