A new Astro-Turf front group, representing eye doctors and the major manufacturers of contact lenses, is working to limit consumers choices on purchases of contact lenses. Essentially, the desire is to force customers to pay higher prices getting their contact lenses at the eye doctor's office, rather than saving money getting them from independent vendors. The group uses the false claim that contact lenses bought from the eye practitioners are safer than those purchased elsewhere.

The Front Group and Health and Safety Claims

The name of the group is The Coalition for Patient Vision Care Safety, named that way, because, who can be against the health and safety of patients? This group was founded by The American Optometry Association (AOA), the trade association representing most Optometrists. They are advancing the message that it is safer for patients to get their contact lenses at the eye doctor's office rather than order them from independent vendors. But this claim has been debunked.

The safety claim was debunked by an investigation by 17 state attorneys general in 1997. They documented that contact lenses from independent vendors were just as safe as those purchased from eye care practitioners. The safety claim is simply a false argument to justify their desire for #Government regulations.

The Government Regulation they Support

The Coalition for Patient Care Safety is calling for Congress to enact the Contact Lens Consumer #Health Protection Act (S. 2777), that would complex government regulations on the independent vendors, causing restriction of consumer choice. The bill imposes many restrictions on independent vendors filling prescriptions for contact lenses related to verifying the prescriptions and communicating with eye doctors offices about them. These regulations will raise vendors' cost of doing business and also undercut their ability to pass the savings along to their customers.

Johnson & Johnson, the largest contact lens manufacturer, which holds about 40 percent market share, spent $6.4 million last year to lobby for the regulations on contact lens sales by independent vendors. Additionally, the major contact lens makers, including Johnson & Johnson, support the Coalition for Patient Care Safety in its campaign to enact regulations that restrict consumer choices.

Protection of Consumer Rights

In 2004, #Congress passed the Fairness to Contact Lens Consumers Act (FCLCA), which requires eye care practitioners to furnish consumers with their prescriptions for glasses or contact lenses, which enables them to purchase these products from independent vendors. This was in response to a history of opposition to consumer choice by the AOA and other industry interest groups. 32 state attorneys general filed suit against the AOA and the largest manufacturers of contact lenses, in 1996, for anti-competitive practices and seeking to limit consumer choices.

The so-called Contact Lens Consumer Health Protection Act is an assault on consumer choices in purchases contact lenses, that will only benefit the industries involved. The new group they have created for this campaign is nothing more than a front, claiming to support patient safety, to support the financial interests of eye doctors and contact lens makers at the expense of consumers.