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This Halloween, Don't Succumb to Sneaky Eye Doctor Tricks

This Halloween, Don't Succumb to Sneaky Eye Doctor Tricks

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Wednesday, 26 October 2016 10:59 AM Current | Bio | Archive

 As Halloween approaches, nearly every mainstream media outlet has reported on the dangers of purchasing black market color contacts for costume parties. These warnings come for good reason -- over the past few weeks, approximately 100,000 pairs of "counterfeit, illegal and unapproved contact lenses" have been seized thanks to an FDA-led mission called Operation Double Vision.

While the FDA’s campaign is certainly laudable, crony eye doctors are using this disturbing news hook as an opportunity to incite fear mongering, stopping people from purchasing lenses from licensed third-party vendors altogether.

Of course, consumers should take care of their eyes, and no one should purchase contact lenses from shady sources on the black market. But eye doctors are trying to convince their patients that purchasing lenses from anywhere but doctors’ offices – meaning from Costco, 1-800 Contacts, and the like -- poses a health risk.

As you can imagine, this is simply not true.

The problem is eye doctors are still licking their wounds from the Republican-controlled Congress’ 2004 legislation, The Fairness in Contact Lens Consumers Act (FCLCA), which opened up the contact lens industry to free market competition for the first time.

Before this bill was passed, eye doctors held a virtual monopoly over the sale of contacts. They were not obligated to give their patients copies of their prescriptions and could more or less control precisely which lenses their patients were allowed to buy and for the most part where.

This usually meant Johnson & Johnnson’s Acuvve lenses, and eye doctors would force patients to purchase them at inflated prices directly from their offices. This worked out great for both parties involved. Johnson & Johnson captured nearly 40 percent of the contact lens market, while doctors managed to make large profits off the retail costs of these lenses.

Unfortunately for the medical lobby, FCLCA stopped this price-gouging party by enforcing consumer rights. This bill prevented eye doctors from indefinitely holding up sales and having near total control over contact lens transactions.

FCLCA mandates that all eye doctors give consumers their prescriptions on demand so they can shop around for contacts to find better prices. Although doctors still need to approve the sale of contacts from third parties, they now only have an 8-hour window to file a complaint -- gone are the days when they could “pocket veto” valid sales by failing to respond to third-party requests to fill orders.

As a result of these free market reforms, prices for contact lenses dropped immediately. Third-party lens sellers like Costco and 1-800 Contacts increased their market share, bolstering consumer choice. Now, over 41 million Americans have the ability to purchase more than $7 billion worth of contact lens every year from optometrists, retail stores, and online sellers.

This legislation has worked out great for the average American, but it has understandably vexed members of the medical lobby. That’s why for the past 12 years, groups like Johnson & Johnson have been incessantly lobbying Congress to increase “safeguards” in the contact lens industry- they want to return their market share to pre-2004 levels, but do it all in the name of “ensuring consumer safety.”

This was Johnson & Johnson’s goal when it helped draft the new congressional bill, The Contact Lens Consumer Health Protection Act (CLCHPA). This legislation will greatly increase regulations in the contact lens industry, making it nearly impossible for third-party lens vendors to stay in business. According to the bill’s co-sponsors, this extended red tape is needed to protect consumers from predatory third-party sellers that are doling out dangerous lenses, many of which are supposedly causing keratitis, an eye infection that affects the cornea. Of course, these health concerns are hogwash -- buying contact lenses from reputable companies like Costco and 1-800 Contacts is not equivalent to purchasing lenses off the street.

In a letter written to the CLCHPA’s authors, Dr. Paul B. Donzis, a professor of ophthalmology at UCLA, made this point abundantly clear. “Based on…authoritative scientific articles, it appears that online sales of contact lenses have not contributed to any increase in the incidence of contact lens related injury,” he said.

The empirical data matches up with the doctors’ testimony. A prominent 20-year epidemiologic study of contact lens related-keratitis published in 2007 by the medical journal Eye & Contact Lens found that there has been no increase in the incidence of microbial keratitis since the advent of online sales.

In fact, another study by Survey Sampling International (SSI) shows that purchasing contact lenses from online sellers is actually safer than buying from optometrists. This is because, due to pressure from special interests in the medical lobby, they have to be extra careful to get orders right.

That’s why optometrists are more likely than online sellers to allow the use of an expired prescription -- they don’t have any special interests watching their every move for blunders, so they incessantly (and conveniently) make mistakes. As a result, over 11 percent of optometrists have extended a prescription without even taking a new eye examination.

Let’s be clear, no one should purchase lenses off the street without a prescription. But at the same time, no one is at risk from purchasing lenses from third-party vendors like Costco, Walmart, and 1-800 Contacts, where prescriptions are still required to purchase the lenses and doctors still sign off on every sale. The only risk that third-party vendors pose is to the profit margins of eye doctors on their favored lens vendors.

This Halloween, contact lens consumers should be smart, but they shouldn’t give into fear mongering from doctors about purchasing contacts lenses from anywhere but the doctors’ office. Their cries about the health risks of doing so are merely a great Halloween trick; a gimmick that consumers, nor members of Congress, should succumb to.

Christopher (Chris) Versace is the editor of the newsletter The Growth & Dividend Report and is a featured columnist to The Street.com as well as a contributor to FoxBusiness.com and Forbes.com. To read more of his blogs, CLICK HERE NOW.
 

 

 

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As Halloween approaches, nearly every mainstream media outlet has reported on the dangers of purchasing black market color contacts for costume parties. These warnings come for good reason -- over the past few weeks, approximately 100,000 pairs of counterfeit, illegal and...
eye, doctor, Halloween, contacts
1002
2016-59-26
Wednesday, 26 October 2016 10:59 AM
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