CL Design & Materials

Are Contact Lens Substitutions Allowed?

CL Design & Materials

Are Contact Lens Substitutions Allowed?


It takes considerable time and effort to become familiar with the names, fitting characteristics, parameters, and replacement schedules of the ever-expanding contact lens offerings. Adding to this are the questions of whether lenses with similar names have similar designs and whether certain lenses are generic versions of other lenses. Could a reseller substitute another lens for one specifically listed on a prescription?

Such lenses typically fall into two categories: 1) lenses that sound or seem alike but are, in fact, different, and 2) products that reflect different packaging and naming of the same lens.

Alike but Different

An example of the first category may be when manufacturers offer a family of contact lenses. For example, a company may offer Lens X Sphere and Lens X Cosmetic, both of which appear to have the same material, diameter, and surface properties. So, if a patient presents with a prescription for Lens X Sphere, can you or a contact lens reseller “substitute” boxes of Lens X Cosmetic?

The answer should be no, as they are different products. They received separate U.S. Food and Drug Administration approvals, they are not the same contact lens, and therefore, they cannot be substituted for one another. For a patient who is fit and prescribed Lens X Sphere to have the option of wearing Lens X Cosmetic, that patient would need a second prescription for this additional fitting of an alternate contact lens.

A Rose by Any Other Name…

Patients sometimes present with alternative or generic-branded versions of traditional contact lenses with names that may be completely foreign to a practitioner. This is understandable, as academic courses and presentations from the podium seldom cover the topic of non-name-brand contact lenses. For marketing purposes, soft lenses are generally packaged and sold under different names based on specific buying agreements with large contact lens retailers or large practitioner marketing alliances.

While it is difficult to compile a list of all alternative-branded lenses, specific retailers have characteristic trade names under which contact lenses are sold. To name just a few of the more common names encountered, Walmart sells lenses under the Equate brand or as UltraFlex. Vision Source lenses can be packaged as Fresh Day or AquaClear. America’s Best and Eyeglass World provide lenses under the Sofmed label, and Visionworks markets AquaTech brand lenses.

The most common generic brand may be Walmart’s Equate brand. Walmart offers Equate 1-Day (a generic version of CooperVision’s ClearSight 1 Day), Equate 2 Week (CooperVision’s Biomedics 55), Equate 2 Week for Astigmatism (CooperVision’s Biomedics Toric), and Equate Monthly (Bausch + Lomb’s PureVision2) lenses.

Non-name-brand lenses can generally be identified if a lens package is available. The lens material and manufacturer’s name will be displayed on the package. Practitioners can use this information to consult contact lens guides, or to conduct an Internet search, to reveal the more familiar branded name of the product.

When a prescription specifies one of these non-branded lenses, it is generally considered allowable to “substitute” the name-brand lens to fill the order, and vice versa. They are, in fact, the exact same lens, so the product specified is being provided, simply in different packaging. CLS

Dr. Miller is a graduate of the Michigan College of Optometry and is currently completing a cornea and contact lens residency at Indiana University. He has received an educational grant from B+L. Dr. Pence serves as associate dean, Clinical and Patient Services, Indiana University School of Optometry in Bloomington, Ind. He is a consultant or advisor to Alcon and Vistakon and has received travel funding from B+L. You can reach him at