Patient Safety Alliance Says Congressional Members Call for ‘Action to Remedy FTC’s Final Contact Lens Rule’

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ALEXANDRIA, Va.—The Health Care Alliance for Patient Safety   (APS) on Friday said it applauded members of the U.S. House and Senate for letters sent to respective chamber leadership calling for a legislative remedy to the FTC’s recently issued final Contact Lens Rule. The controversial CL rule, which was released in late June, has drawn the ire of several contact lens manufacturers and the American Optometric Association (AOA), as VMAIL reported. According to APS, the bipartisan letters sent to the leadership call for legislative action to be included in COVID-19 relief legislation.

The updated CL rule requires eye doctors to obtain and keep on file for three years (as well as produce for federal investigators) copies of patient-signed documentation for each contact lens prescription attesting that the patient received a copy of their contact lens prescription as required under federal law. According to the FTC, these obligations would cumulatively cost eye doctors more than $13 million annually to comply, the APS announcement noted.

The Congressional letters from a wide cross section of bipartisan lawmakers represent “a further escalation in Congressional calls for action after the release of the Rule,” the APS announcement noted. In July, the House Committee on Appropriations expressed disappointment in the FTC’s ruling and directed the FTC to delay the effective date for the amendments and suspend implementation.

“We applaud Congressional leaders for their calls for an immediate legislative remedy to the troubling final Contact Lens Rule, which continues the dangerous practice of allowing robocalls to be used for prescription verification and places unnecessary burdens on doctors as they try to keep their practices operational amid a pandemic,” APS chairwoman Dr. Deanna Alexander, OD, said in the announcement. “Ensuring patient safety is paramount, and we hope their calls will be heard and acted upon to protect patient safety and allow doctors to focus on caring for patients as opposed to bureaucratic paperwork requirements.”

The letter from House of Representatives members reads, in part: Despite overwhelming Congressional engagement (including through appropriations language, multiple sign-on letters, and direct hearing questioning) the FTC has refused to meaningfully address disruptive and unreliable prescription verification robocalls and has instead allowed this dangerous practice to continue.”

APS also noted that, with the FTC failing to address its concerns about the updated CL rule, “it is clear that Congress must act to better protect patients from the commission’s flawed approach. Therefore, it is our hope that the House will address this important issue in upcoming virus relief or end-of-year legislation.”

Rep. Bobby Rush (D-Ill.) and Rep. Michael C. Burgess, MD, (R-Texas), who led the House letter, previously introduced the Contact Lens Prescription Verification Modernization Act. The proposed Act, H.R. 3975, increases patient safety by prohibiting prescription verification made via robocall and instead requires online sellers use direct communication – a live phone call, fax, or e-mail – to confirm prescriptions, according to the APS announcement on Friday.

The AOA, an APS member, gained support from a bipartisan group of U.S. Senators, Friday’s announcement noted. The senators’ letter reads, in part: “We write today in regard to recently finalized amendments to the FTC’s Contact Lens Rule. These amendments could have an adverse impact on small health practices across the country that are now struggling to remain open and care for patients amid the ongoing pandemic. It is our hope that Congress will address this concern by including an enforcement delay of these amendments in COVID-19 relief legislation.”