By Linda Conlin, Pro to Pro Managing Editor
You never know where things will turn up. On December 28, 2020, as part of the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021 (stimulus package) Congress acted “to delay the implementation, effective date, and enforcement of the Federal Trade Commission’s (FTC) updated Contact Lens Rule until March 31, 2021.” The Rule was previously effective October 17, 2020.
A House Financial Services and General Government (FSGG) report included in the Act states, “Contact Lenses. —The Committee is disappointed that the FTC’s final amendments to the Contact Lens Rule do not sufficiently address the patient safety concerns the Committee has repeatedly outlined in report language for the past four years. The rule fails to sufficiently modernize the prescription verification process by eliminating the use of robocalls and imposes new burdensome paperwork requirements on providers and patients… To allow providers sufficient time to implement the necessary changes and to prevent additional interruptions in service due to the coronavirus, the Committee directs the FTC to delay the effective date for the amendments, and to suspend any implementation or enforcement of those amendments, until March 31, 2021.”
The final amendments to the Contact Lens Rule included requirements that prescribers confirm that patients received their prescriptions. They can do this in one of four ways. They can have the patient: Sign a separate confirmation statement; sign a copy of the prescription with a confirmation statement the prescriber will retain; sign a receipt for the examination with a confirmation statement the prescriber will retain; or retain evidence that the patient received a digital copy of the prescription. Prescribers must retain these confirmation records for three years. The Final Rule also requires prescribers to provide patients or their designated agents with an additional copy of their prescriptions on request within 40 business hours.
The amendments affect contact lens sellers as well. Sellers who use automated telephone messages for verification must: Record the entire call and keep the complete recording; begin the call by identifying it as a prescription verification request made in accordance with the Contact Lens Rule; deliver the verification message in a slow and deliberate manner and at a volume that the prescriber can understand; and make the message repeatable for the prescriber. Sellers cannot request verification for a brand or manufacturer other than what is prescribed. There is an exception, however, for private label lenses. Private label and brand name lenses can be substituted for each other when they are identical lenses made by the same manufacturer.
The Healthcare Alliance for Patient Safety (APS) continues to inform the FTC of the negative impacts of the Contact Lens Rule, which they believe “unfairly burden doctors of optometry without improving patient safety… letters to the Federal Trade Commission … urge the group to reconsider these changes and to crack down on online contact lens retailers that illegally sell lenses without requiring a prescription.” The APS is giving particular attention to contact lens sellers who use robocalls to verify contact lens prescriptions. With many practices limiting their hours during the pandemic, they may not be able to verify contact lens prescriptions in time. This leaves the seller free to fill the prescription without verification.
You can learn about contact lenses and the unique visual challenges facing us due to the dynamically connected modern lifestyle with our CE, Exceptional Comfort and Vision on the Tip of a Finger, at 2020mag.com/ce. This course is free, courtesy of an educational grant from VSP.