Insights into contact lenses: FTC workshop will focus on the Contact Lens Rule


By:


Tara Isa Koslov, Office of Policy Planning, and Christopher Grengs, Bureau of Competition

The FTC is eyeing its Contact Lens Rule and has announced the agenda for a March 7, 2018 workshop, The Contact Lens Rule and the Evolving Contact Lens Marketplace.

The Contact Lens Rule, in place since 2004, requires prescribers to give patients their complete contact lens prescription after a fitting, whether the patient asks for it or not. The Rule also says that prescribers must verify the prescription – or provide a copy – in response to a request from an authorized third party. With this framework in place, consumers are empowered to comparison shop for the lenses their healthcare professionals have prescribed, if they choose to do so. Giving consumers a “shoppable” prescription promotes competition between prescribers who also sell lenses, various brick-and-mortar retailers, and online retailers.

How well is the Rule working? To what extent are consumers able to comparison shop under the Rule’s prescription release and verification framework? How have new technologies, including electronic health records, affected the prescription verification process? How might other innovations, including telehealth options, impact competition going forward? Would any modifications to the Rule foster additional competition and maximize health and financial benefits to consumers? Are there particular medical or safety issues that should inform discussion of these topics?

To address these questions and more, we are convening a public workshop on March 7th featuring healthcare professionals, industry members, consumer advocates, law enforcers, and others. We are hosting the workshop in conjunction with the FTC’s regulatory review of the Contact Lens Rule. (A Notice of Proposed Rulemaking was issued in December 2016 announcing proposed changes.)

We encourage you to check out the agenda for more details about our roster of speakers. After introductory remarks by Thomas Pahl, Acting Director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection, Panel #1 will offer an overview of the contact lens marketplace. Panel #2 will feature medical professionals sharing insights on the health and safety issues the Rule implicates. Panel #3 will delve into competition in the contact lens marketplace. Panel #4 will examine the prescription verification process and Panel #5 will take on issues surrounding prescription release and consumer choice. The final panel will look to the future, and consider how market disruptors may have an impact on competition, consumer protection, and the Rule.

The event is free and open to the public. Registration begins at 7:45 a.m. at the FTC’s Constitution Center Conference Center, 400 7th Street, S.W., in Washington, DC.

Can’t make it to Washington on March 7th? We’ll post a link on the event page just before 9:00 ET that morning so you can watch the webcast live.