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Getting to the Right Prescription for Competition in the Retail Purchase of Contact Lenses

**This is a previously recorded program, originally recorded on May 2, 2017.
The Fairness to Contact Lens Consumers Act, enacted in 2003, requires eye doctors to give patients a copy of their contact lens prescription, so the patients can choose where to purchase their contacts. The FTC's Contact Lens Rule implements that law. This is an unusual market, where the eye doctor plays a dual role: (1) the gatekeeper role of determining whether to prescribe contacts, and which brand and kind to prescribe; and (2) the retailer role of offering the prescribed contacts for sale to the patient. The Act and Rule are a response to concerns that this dual role gives an eye doctor an incentive to steer patients to purchase from the eye doctor, and an incentive to create hurdles to purchasing elsewhere. Eye doctors, retailers, manufacturers, and consumer advocates have various views about how well the Rule is working and how to improve it. Some retailers say eye doctors are not giving their patients copies of the prescription, or are not promptly verifying the prescription when the retailer calls. Some eye doctors say retailers are not giving sufficient time to verify, and are rushing to fill prescriptions that may be incorrect or expired. The FTC has recently proposed revisions to the Rule, after considering input from these and other parties. Meanwhile, contact lens manufacturers moved three years ago to restrict retail discounts, leading to court challenges, Senate hearings, and counteractive state legislative efforts. Over the past several months to a year, these discount pricing restrictions have largely been discontinued. We will hear from three different perspectives on these and other related developments in the marketplace for this widely used consumer product -- a discount online retailer, an optometrist, and an FTC attorney who works on these and other health care competition policy issues.
This program was sponsored by the D.C. Bar Antitrust and Consumer Law Community. Cosponsored by the Administrative Law and Agency Practice Community and the Corporation, Finance and Securities Law Community.
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