Alliance for Patient Safety Commends U.S. Senate as Contact Lens Prescription Verification Modernization Act is Introduced

Sens. Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) and John Boozman (R-AR) introduced the bill, which is the Senate companion to H.R. 3353 introduced May 19th in the House

(WASHINGTON) – The Health Care Alliance for Patient Safety (Alliance) today released the following statement following the introduction of the Contact Lens Prescription Verification Modernization Act (S.1784) in the United States Senate. The bipartisan legislation introduced by Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) and Sen. John Boozman (R-AR) will modernize the contact lens prescription verification process and make it simpler and safer for millions of contact lens wearers. The bill is the companion to H.R. 3353, which was introduced in the House of Representatives on May 19, 2021.

Dr. David Cockrell, Chairman of the Health Care Alliance for Patient Safety, said, “The introduction of the Contact Lens Prescription Verification Modernization Act in the United States Senate is a significant step forward for patient safety as the Act will modernize how contact lens prescriptions are verified and offer safeguards for contact lens wearing patients. With this bill introduction by Senator Duckworth and Senator Boozman, there is a recognition by members of both parties in both chambers of Congress that action must be taken to enhance patient safety mechanisms. We appreciate Senators Duckworth’s and Boozman’s diligent work to make certain prescription verification methods are modernized as technology evolves.”

The introduction of the bill in the Senate coincides with a virtual fly-in this week of hundreds of vison safety champions and optometrists from around the country advocating for commonsense safeguards for vision health.

Millions of Americans can purchase their contact lenses online thanks to the Fairness to Contact Lens Consumers Act (FCLCA). However, as a patient health safeguard, the law requires online sellers to verify the validity of contact lens prescriptions with the patient’s doctor before fulfilling an order. While the FCLCA clearly allows the use of telephone, fax, or e-mail for verifying prescriptions, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has interpreted the law to also allow for robocall verification.

Confirming the accuracy of contact lens prescriptions, which includes several specifications, is far too complicated for an automated phone system or robocall. Information relayed in these robocalls is oftentimes garbled or does not align with a patient’s medical record—making it difficult, or even impossible, for a doctor to correctly identify the patient and proper prescription within the eight-hour passive verification window.

S.1784, along with its House companion bill H.R. 3353, will increase patient safety by prohibiting prescription verification made via robocall and establishing a paper trail by instead requiring that online sellers use direct communication – e-mail, live phone call, or fax – to confirm prescriptions and ensure patients are receiving their prescribed lenses rather than a substitution not approved by an eye care provider that could put their eye health and vision at risk. The bill also requires online sellers to develop HIPAA-compliant methods for patients to electronically transmit contact lens prescriptions.

More than 45 million Americans rely on contact lenses – U.S. Food and Drug Administration Class II and Class III regulated medical devices – for safe and effective vision correction. Contact lenses are more complex than they appear, having more than 10 different structural and chemical features that represent over 160 different brands to meet the needs of each individual patient. There are no generic contact lenses. Improper lens usage, which can result from the substitution of lenses not as prescribed by the patient’s doctor or using an outdated prescription, can lead to serious health complications, including infections and other sight-threatening conditions, such as microbial keratitis, corneal edema, ulcers, and neovascularization. The FDA includes information on contact lenses for consumers on their website.

The Health Care Alliance for Patient Safety has made it a priority to close loopholes within the existing verification process and prevent the substitution of lenses to reduce the risk of preventable vision loss.

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