I recently asked myself this question, though I wasn’t considering whether a rose by any other name would smell as sweet. Instead, I was questioning the difference between the words “patient” and “consumer” as I listened to parts of the Federal Trade Commission’s workshop, “The Contact Lens Rule and the Evolving Contact Lens Marketplace,” and heard the terms used interchangeably.

Merriam-Webster defines “patient” as “an individual awaiting or under medical care and treatment.” A “consumer,” the dictionary tells us, is “one that utilizes economic goods.”

The FTC held this public workshop as it considers whether to revise its Contact Lens Rule, which requires eyecare practitioners to automatically provide contact lens patients with a complete copy of the prescription and verify or provide the prescription to authorized third parties. The rule also requires that contact lens sellers dispense contact lenses only with a valid prescription or once the prescriber has verified it.

However, some of the eyecare practitioners at the workshop described receiving robo calls that were often incomprehensible, for inaccurate prescriptions or for patients they hadn’t seen in some time. That makes it somewhat difficult to verify that a prescription is accurate.

“If you’re in a marketplace environment, generally the seller is responsible for most of the additional steps that have to happen,” says Shaun Schooley, vice president of global marketing technology at CooperVision, who participated in the workshop. “In our market it’s a little different. Prescribers seem to be bearing a lot of responsibility. They want to comply, but it’s hard for them to do that. They’re not getting fed the information in a way that allows them to more easily or precisely react.”

Although contact lenses have become commodities and the FTC wants to make sure that “consumers” have freedom of choice as to where they obtain their lenses, contact lenses are still medical devices. They require an accurate, up-to-date prescription and regular follow-ups between “patients” and ECPs.

Don’t get me wrong. While I’m not a contact lens wearer myself, I comparison shop for plenty of other things. As I’ve said in these pages before, I’m not against freedom of choice. I’m for making responsible choices—in this case choices that won’t cause “patients” to have less-than-optimal vision or threaten their eye health.

Perhaps Peter Menziuso, Johnson & Johnson Vision’s president, North America, puts it best. “Three things are critical to ensuring a healthy eye health community—both now and in the future,” he says. “First, is continuing to promote the importance of the doctor-patient relationship and regular, comprehensive eye exams. Next, is making sure patients receive the exact contact lenses as prescribed, regardless of where they choose to purchase. And lastly, we believe that contact lens wearers deserve care consistent with the high standard of care they receive in their eye doctor’s office, regardless of where or how they receive it.”

Jeffrey Eisenberg | Editor-In-Chief | JEisenberg@FVMG.com


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