Senators push FTC to finalize changes to contact lens rule

Senators push FTC to finalize changes to contact lens rule
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Sens. Orrin HatchOrrin Grant HatchRead Senate GOP's tax bill Senate panel to start tax bill markup on Monday Senate set for clash with House on tax bill MORE (R-Utah) and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) are pushing the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to finalize proposed changes to rules for contact lenses, which they claim will create more competition in the marketplace and let consumers choose whether to buy contacts online or through their eye doctor.

In a letter Monday, the senators asked Acting FTC Chairwoman Maureen Ohlhausen to finalize the proposed changes to the 2004 contact lens rule. The rule requires prescribers to automatically provide patients with a complete copy of the contact lens prescription and to verify, or provide, the prescription to authorized third-party sellers like 1-800-CONTACTS and Lens.com online.

But Hatch and Blumenthal said some providers may be "flouting" these requirements.

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“Federal law correctly bars contact lens consumers from obtaining their lenses without a prescription," the senators said. “Yet, at the same time, eye care providers that issue prescriptions can also dispense the contact lenses they prescribe, creating an inherent conflict of interest.”

Under the proposed changes, prescribers would be required to get the patients to sign a form acknowledging they were provided their prescription and keep that form on file for three years.

Blumenthal and Hatch argue the FTC’s new rules would allow consumers to comparison shop and more easily purchase lenses from the seller of their choice, ensuring a robust competition within the marketplace.

Eye doctors have reportedly warned consumers of the risks of buying contacts online, claiming patients will be deterred from coming in for annual appointments and would be more likely to mistreat their lenses.