On Jan. 28, the FTC announ-ced that, “Vision Path, Inc., the online seller of direct-to-consumer Hubble lenses, will pay penalties and redress totaling $3.5 million to settle Federal Trade Commission charges that it violated the Contact Lens Rule in several ways, including by failing to obtain prescriptions and to properly verify prescription information and by substituting Hubble lenses for those actually prescribed to consumers.” Samuel Levine, director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection states, “Hubble’s business model boosted its bottom line but created needless risk for its customers’ eye health.”
We know how important it is for contact lens sellers, whether online or brick and mortar, to obtain current verified prescriptions for contact lenses. But often, consumers looking for a bargain don’t understand why a prescription is needed or why contact lenses are an FDA-regulated Class II medical device. Simply stated, because contact lenses are medical devices worn directly on the eye and have potential user risk, the FDA regulates them in the same way as catheters, syringes, absorbable sutures and more. Neither do many contact lens wearers understand the factors considered for a healthy contact lens fit.
In October 2021, Contact Lens and Anterior Eye published a paper citing research that not only identified 16 contact lens properties for a successful fit but found that “15 of 16 contact lens properties can create potential sources of patient dissatisfaction and adverse ocular events if an alternate product is used without professional consideration.” The 16 properties are: edge profile, optical design, power, color, UV protection, wearing modality, replacement frequency, thickness, surface treatment, internal wetting agents, oxygen permeability, water content, modulus (the stiffness of the lens material), total diameter, back optic zone radius and back surface design. Of these, only back surface design was not potentially problematic in substituted lenses. (Note: This applies to soft lenses only. Back surface design is essential to proper rigid lens fitting.)
Many patients think that contact lens power and contact lens prescriptions are synonymous, and therefore don’t hesitate to find the least expensive lenses in the power they need. Contact lens practitioners can dispel that notion by explaining why the fitting requires certain procedures to determine lens parameters and how those parameters are important for their ocular health, vision, comfort and convenience. This adds value to the provider’s contact lens services and reinforces the importance of filling the prescription exactly as written. There cannot be “generic” substitutions as can be done with some medications. It’s up to us to manage patients’ misconceptions with education.
• Linda Conlin
Pro to Pro Managing Editor