In Time, We Will Have to Release Prescriptions
BY JOSEPH T. BARR, OD, MS, FAAO, EDITOR
The Burr legislation (The House Energy and Commerce Committee) "Fairness to Contact Lens Consumers Act" (HR 3140) may have passed through the House of Representative in Washington by the time you read these words. If this bill becomes law, then we must release our contact lens prescriptions. The law will hopefully make clear what fitting and follow-up procedures are acceptable before release of the prescription, as most good state laws specify. This is the only ethical approach, of course.
I know what you're thinking: "But the mail-order, web-based, phone-based sellers do not behave ethically!" Correct, and these practices are likely to continue until the Federal Trade Commission tracks down and punishes enough illegal, unethical sellers. The proposed legislation contains provisions against sellers for selling lenses without valid prescriptions. A logical verification process and a reasonable time to determine if a prescription is valid are critical elements of the legislation that the American Optometric Association is attempting to influence in a good way for their doctors and for their patients. The law would specifically prohibit sellers from altering contact lens prescriptions. In the past they have changed powers and base curves and even lens brands. At least this bill will bring some order to an area I have previously referred to as anarchy.
What impact will this have on our practices? Very little, I expect. If you provide good service and make it too convenient for patients to obtain their lenses from you, then they will have no need to turn to a nonprofessional lens provider.
Another wild card of this issue is eye infection and loss of vision from improperly purchased lenses and poorly monitored lens care. If you see any serious complications that are sight threatening, such as corneal ulcers, publish them or report them to the FDA at (301) 594-2735 or firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.arbo.org/complications.htm.