By Linda Conlin, Pro to Pro Managing Editor

I will always remember the patient who sat in front of me with tears in her eyes. She had been to our office a couple months before for a regular contact lens exam. She then ordered the new contact lenses online. Sometime later, she experienced sudden onset blurred vision, but didn’t realize that it coincided with the new contact lenses.  After all, everything was fine at the eye exam. She saw an array of doctors and underwent weeks of tests trying to find the cause, possibly a brain tumor or stroke. The patient was terrified at what the outcome might be. Ultimately, still searching for an answer, one of the specialists recommended that she return to her eye doctor, who discovered that the lenses she purchased online were not what had been prescribed. The woman had tears of relief that the solution to her problem was as simple as getting the correct lenses. But she also was angry that because the seller manipulated her prescription, she underwent needless tests, prolonged anxiety, and expense.

On April 20, House Representatives Michael Burgess and Lisa Blunt Rochester introduced H.R. 2748, Contact Lens Prescription Verification Modernization Act. This bill revises the requirements for the verification of prescriptions related to the purchase of contact lenses. Specifically, online sellers of prescription contact lenses must provide consumers with a method to transmit a digital copy of their prescriptions to such sellers. Online sellers also must encrypt protected health information they send by email. Additionally, the bill prohibits any seller of prescription contact lenses from using telephone calls with an artificial or prerecorded voice (i.e., robocalls) to verify a consumer's prescription.

The Health Care Alliance for Patient Safety (HCAPS), one of whose principles is to, “Educate and inform policymakers, the media and the public about the importance of doctor-patient decision-making and respond to dangerous, abusive or harmful medical device marketing practices that undermine quality care or place patients at increased risk for harm,” and the American Optometric Association support this legislation. HCAPS notes that robocalls for contact lens verification can go to an incorrect phone number or provide prescription information and patient identification that doesn’t match the medical record. Under the current Fairness to Contact Lens Consumers Act, if the practice cannot find and correct the information within the eight-hour time limit, the prescription is filled as is. (If you have tried to correct misinformation from a robocall, you know the time it takes and the frustration that results!) 

While protecting consumers’ freedom of choice is important, ensuring that they can obtain contact lenses safely and correctly is critical. Thank you, Representatives Burgess, and Blunt Rochester!