The Future of Internet and Mail Order Lenses
BY JOSEPH T. BARR, OD, MS, FAAO, EDITOR
In our future issues, especially January, we will say more about mail order and Internet order contact lens sales. Over the past year, medical boards have shut down similar operations, especially for modern elective drugs. Certainly there will be growth in legitimate, properly controlled access to drugs or devices through the mail or via Internet ordering. By legitimate, I mean properly filled prescriptions by properly qualified people who fill valid prescriptions that are verifiable and within the expiration period. I think most eyecare practitioners, even those who derive significant income from selling contact lenses, would agree that they would want to fill their medical prescriptions wherever they wish, not from their MD or DO unless the MD or DO is legitimately permitted to "sell" the drug. Of course, pharmacists in a pharmacy, mass merchandiser or grocery store pharmacy will properly fill most of these prescriptions.
An excellent recent article in our sister publication Optometric Management ("Mail Order: Public Benefit or Public Health Threat" September 2000), reviewed a number of issues, including how much money the mail order companies made, their admission that they intentionally violate state laws and how some states are challenging these pirates, and it suggested there was a health care risk. You and I can think of plenty of potential risks. Indeed, FDA, FTC and state boards are investigating these practices in the public's interest, but few reports of injury are documented. Please, if you have witnessed an injury from an improperly filled contact lens Rx, report it to us, another publication or the FDA. You can report them to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I predict that neither federal, state, industry nor practitioner efforts will stop these pirates, whose major impact is taking money away from eyecare practitioners and trivializing contact lenses. In fact, I think they will be conquered the way most pirates are eliminated by free enterprise.