As you probably know, the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) recently sought public comment as part of its regulatory review of the Contact Lens Rule (effective Aug. 2, 2004) associated with the Fairness to Contact Lens Consumers Act (passed by the U.S. Congress in 2003). The FTC proposed that the rule be amended to “require that prescribers obtain a signed acknowledgement after releasing a contact lens prescription to a patient and maintain each such acknowledgement for a period of not less than three years” (www.ftc.gov/policy/federal-register-notices/16-cfr-part-315-contact-lens-rule-notice-proposed-rulemaking-request ).
Obviously, this activity is a backdrop to the ever-contentious discussion of contact lens sales channels in the United States. A 2005 report from the FTC about the Contact Lens Rule estimated that, in 2003, about 10.2% of contact lens sales were conducted online (www.ftc.gov/sites/default/files/documents/reports/strength-competition-sale-rx-contact-lenses-ftc-study/050214contactlensrpt.pdf ). Although the source of these data are unclear, online portal Statista showed that the percent share of contact lenses purchased online ranged between 15.4% and 16.7% between 2009 and 2012 (www.statista.com/statistics/256799/percentage-of-eyewear-sold-online-in-the-us-by-type ). Finally, data from the Contact Lens Spectrum 2016 Annual Report showed that practitioners estimate that 18% of contact lens purchases were made online (www.clspectrum.com/issues/2017/january/contact-lenses-2016 ).
If these estimates are correct, they suggest that the growth of online contact lens sales has been modest subsequent to the original changes in regulations surrounding the distribution of contact lenses. However, we need to do all we can to ensure that we provide input and clearly understand any changes that may impact our prescribing habits going forward.