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Mango

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I've got a question for my OD colleagues out there. I'm confused about the legality of ordering contact lenses online. The first time I tried to do so was a couple years ago, and I was required to fax a copy of my script to the company. I think it was lens direct. I didn't do it because I decided the savings weren't as important to me as maintaining a good relationship with my OD. And I felt that I'd have to explain the need for a copy of my script, and so on, and so on.

The point is, I called to get a new batch of lenses a couple weeks ago, and he told me I was due for an exam. Well, I live in another city now, so that's not going to happen any time soon. So I went back online, and found a site that mailed me my lenses with no questions asked! No faxed records, no script, not even my OD's name and phone number were required! I just plugged in the numbers, and my contacts arrived 3 days later, and $40 bucks cheaper than my doc charges!

So my question is, how'd this happen? Is the company doing it illegally? Maybe they're not in the US or something like that. I'm just curious about what you guys think is going on.
 

Jubileee

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First question...when was your last eye exam?

Second what kind of contacts do you wear?

It is recommended that you get a new eye exam at least every two years. This is for health reasons. A lot of disease can be diagnosed early due to changes in the back of the eye that become visible upon indirect opthalmoscopic exmaination. And a lot of people will have some change in their refraction as well.

With contacts the recommended time between exams is one year. This is a device that actually gets place in the eye. The chances of a severe side effect is higher than it is with glasses which are worn outside the eye.
A lot more eye infections are seen, if your eye has changed shape the lens could be a bad fit now and damaging the surface of the eye, or any number of other things....There are a few states that switched to every two to keep things simple but most docs still think you should be seen every year...

Now I know the docs I work for are willing to price match on most things. Of course they also want to know what your shipping price was, if you had to pay any membership fees etc...

What this company did is illegal here in the states..of course if they are based outside the US then there really is no stopping them. Kind of like those places where you can buy Viagra without an rx by mail...

Contacts are a medical device that for proper use require a prescription that is to be followed. They have different water content, base curvatures, powers, axis if toric, and sizes. If a dr prescribes a cooper toric, I can not by law sell them a ciba toric. Nor can I give the person with versaflex 38% a versaflex 55%..that is why the rx is so important...

What they offer frighten me. I don't know how many patients I see who don't know what lenses they wear...oh it is the ones in the blue box...well there are several that have blue boxes. They throw away the vials on the daily wear lenses so they don't even know what they have..let alone the actual correction value. And no it isn't the same as your glasses rx either in most cases.

Is the forty bucks worth the possibility of damaging the eye? I know I receive on average two phone calls a day for 800 contacts or contacts by mail..and we require the patient to sign a release form for the rx and a waiver stating we aren't responsible for the quality of the lense since we aren't able to make sure they get the correct prescribed lens. Heck a lot of drs have partnerships set up with these places so you can have the exam done, and get all of your contacts by mail. Lenscrafters have their advantage program that saves you forty to fifty dollars if you buy a year's supply at the time...so you can have that convience of getting your contacts mailed to you, save some money and have the comfort of knowing you are getting the right lens...

Cassandra
 

Mango

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Thank you for your reply.

First off, I realize that I should get an exam, but the problem was the timing. I use disposable lenses, and my supply had run out. And wearing my glasses is hard since they are an outdated prescription that I can't currently justify updating (since I wear the contacts 99.9% of the time). So I was basically blind, and resorted to the online store.

I will say that I was able to get the correct lenses. The company asked for +/- Diopters, as well as base curve, both of which I was able to read from my empty boxes.

I thought that was illegal though. I went back to the site, and in their faq they state that you must give them your OD's name and number, but as I said, I was never asked for that info.

Rest assured, I will get an exam the next time I head home. It has been one year since my last exam. Besides, I want to discuss lasik surgery with him!!
 
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cpw

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Well, if they mailed you contact without an Rx in the US it IS illegal. 1 800 contacts used to fax me at the doctors office I worked out at least three times a day. Nine times out of ten it was an Rx for a patient who hadn't seen a doctor in at LEAST two years. I'd always write on the fax that this Rx was EXPIRED in HUGE letter and fax it back. the patients never called back to complain about it.. so i KNOW they were still getting the contacts.

1 800 contacts has already admitted that they're filling scrips illegally (expired rx's) but no one seems to be doing anything about it. the OD's I work for are concerned about it... and I usually ended up calling the patients to explain to them that we were more than happy to release their rx's to 800 contacts if that's what they wanted to do.. but for their health and safety reasons they really DID need to come in for an exam.

I tried to be nice about it ;)

So, it's a great question! I'm glad someone brought up this topic. it's been a pet peeve of mine for at least the last two years.
Keep the writing comin' guys!
Christine
 

abs1

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1-800-CONTACTS is definitely illegal, and yet, for some unknown reason they are pulling it off? :mad: :confused: :mad:

I know for sure that the corporations are trying to shut them down, but it may be too little too late? (thats a quote from someone very high up in professional services in one of the major optical companies BTW that I know) But, they WILL be stopped someday.....OH YES, they will be stopped!! :mad: :mad:
 

Simisn

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If 1-800-contacts is illegal, how come nothing has been done about it yet?
 

Mango

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Maybe it's because nobody has tipped off Dateline NBC yet. :rolleyes:
 

John DO

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Whem I was an Optician in Arkansas, my understanding was that the prescribing doc was responsible for the filling of the script, regardless of who filled it. Because of this, the docs I knew refused to release a script to an 800 service, which irritated the operators to no end. Most patients understood, though, when we explained the eye health issue.
 

cpw

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Originally posted by John DO:
•Whem I was an Optician in Arkansas, my understanding was that the prescribing doc was responsible for the filling of the script, regardless of who filled it. Because of this, the docs I knew refused to release a script to an 800 service, which irritated the operators to no end. Most patients understood, though, when we explained the eye health issue.•

Well, this may be true.. but in the cases I've seen 800 contacts faxes our office for approval to fill a rx.. we write EXPIRED RX in HUGE letters on the fax. (and the patients are STILL getting their contacts) The OD's I've worked for release Rx's incase patients want to get contacts at costco, walmart, sam's etc. But, even though they're telling 800 contacts the Rx's are no longer valid.. the rx's are still being filled against doctors orders. THAT's the issue!


:(
 

Jubileee

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Ok...I have been gone for a few days and need a chance to reply to all that is here..

First..Mango, all the doctors I have worked with would have been willing to give you a set of trial lenses to get you by till exam time. How long are you planning to wait before getting that exam?

Second, there is really no excuse for not updating your glasses. If you are planning on doing lasik, you will have to go at least 6 weeks without your contacts. They do this to get the eye back to its regular shape before cutting into it. One gal I worked with had to wait 6 months before her eyes stopped changing shape before they could do the surgery...

When you have an eye infection, or for some other reason can't wear your contacts, it is not the right time believe it or not to be picking out a new set of glasses. I don't know how many people I helped who had to find glasses asap cause they couldn't wear their contacts, and couldn't see the frames to boot cause of the red and watery eye(s). Plus, do you ever give your eyes a break from those contacts? Again the doctors I have worked with recommend that people take them out at night when they are in their own home, to give their eyes a bit of rest from the contacts. And of course never sleep in them (unless your doing ortho k).

I will give you credit though for not extending the life of your lenses. I know many people who like to use supercleanse and other things to remove protien and keep those contacts two to three times their recommended time.

It just kills me cause people complain how much glasses and/or contacts cost. Even if you spent $365 a year on them (which in most cases will be contacts and a pair of basic backups or a NICE pair of glasses) that is a dollar a day for being able to get your best clarity and vision. Why is it okay for people to spend a two hundred on a suit and another fity to hundred on shoes you wear maybe once a week, when you wear your contacts or glasses all the time, and they do a hell of a lot more than look pretty.

I do think 1 800 contacts needs to be investigated. What they are doing can in fact be damaging to the patient. What if they do have some type of eye condition going on? Since it has been three years since that guy has been to his OD, no one caught his diabetic retinopathy. Or that lady's glaucoma. You can't go to the pharmacist and insist on the doc filling pain meds from an expired rx. They may give you a few to get you through if they know you routinely take them till the time of you appt. But you can't make them fill it. They can't by law...You can't walk up to a pharmacist and say "Hey I have strep and last time my doc gave me penicillin, can you give me a ten day supply so I can skip the whole going to the dr business" They once again can't and won't...

Anyway..off to Seattle for the weekend...

Cassandra
 

Mucho Dinero

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I've got a question for my OD colleagues out there. I'm confused about the legality of ordering contact lenses online. The first time I tried to do so was a couple years ago, and I was required to fax a copy of my script to the company. I think it was lens direct. I didn’t do it because I decided the savings weren't as important to me as maintaining a good relationship with my OD. And I felt that I'd have to explain the need for a copy of my script, and so on, and so on.

The point is, I called to get a new batch of lenses a couple weeks ago, and he told me I was due for an exam. Well, I live in another city now, so that's not going to happen any time soon. So I went back online, and found a site that mailed me my lenses with no questions asked! No faxed records, no script, not even my OD's name and phone number were required! I just plugged in the numbers, and my contacts arrived 3 days later, and $40 bucks cheaper than my doc charges!

So my question is, how'd this happen? Is the company doing it illegally? Maybe they're not in the US or something like that. I'm just curious about what you guys think is going on.

They still do this now... my friends order them online and they never check, ever!
 

Dena1342

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they do check...they call you with the info and you are supposed to let them know the status of the RX. In the office I work in, we write EXPIRED RX, on the cover sheet before faxing it back, but like someone said, no one has really complained about not being able to get the CL they ordered.

CL are not considered medical devices outside of the US (specially in EU) so you can just keep ordering the same RX for decades, given that the lenses are being made for that long, without seeing an OD for a refraction and fit. Some of the website even have step by step instructions on how to read the RX from the side of the box....its kind of scary really.
 

IndianaOD

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Could you guys PM me which of the online places are filling the contacts without a valid Rx?

If it happened to you, you need to file a complaint with the FTC.
 

rodomon

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Before I get into any responses, a comment and a question. While the faxed RX confirmations were annoying but manageable, we absolutely despised the recorded phoned-in ones. We were a really busy office, and having to try to track down a chart when the recording only gave the patient's name after all of the parameters was nigh impossible. If they would have given a name and then just requested a call-back, it wouldn't have been quite so bad (plus, we still used written records, so maybe electronic ones eliminate this problem), but most of the time when they came in, the receptionists simply hung up and didn't bother to check the RX at all, allowing it to go through.

Does anybody know if there is any legal requirement for an office to at least attempt to verify the RX? Ethically I feel there should be (especially because you have eight hours to root around for the chart), but I don't know of anything along that line.

Oh, and I felt really sorry for the people on the other end who had to read those things over and over and over. I'd burn out in single day. I couldn't figure out why they didn't just make it recorded and fill in the parameters with other recordings.

Is the company doing it illegally?
Yes, as has already been mentioned. At least if they're from the US. If they're based in a country that does not require verification, I'm not so sure. Some companies can get away with online activities that are illegal in the US (if they are based in foreign countries they can still provide services to US customers), but I think with CLs being medical devices and going through the US mail, they might still be illegal anyway. As I said, though, I'm not sure.

And wearing my glasses is hard since they are an outdated prescription that I can't currently justify updating (since I wear the contacts 99.9% of the time).
That used to be my frame of mind. I hated my glasses (they were ugly) and exclusively used contacts. Once I actually bought a pair of glasses I didn't mind wearing out where people would see me with them on, though, it gave me a lot more flexibility, especially with being able to switch to glasses if my eyes were tired at the end of the day or if a contact ripped. I used to just make myself deal with it, but it's so much nicer being able to just toss on my glasses, not to mention healthier for my eyes. Trust me, you'll really appreciate the flexibility glasses give you once you find a pair you like, and you can save money by keeping the frame and only changing the lenses if you change RX.

I'd always write on the fax that this Rx was EXPIRED in HUGE letter and fax it back. the patients never called back to complain about it.. so i KNOW they were still getting the contacts.
It's certainly possible some of this occurred when we wrote "expired" and faxed them back, but the vast majority of the time the patient would call us within a day or two saying they needed an exam. Actually, it was standard practice at our office to call the patients and tell them why we were denying the refill before faxing in the form so we could explain it to them, and usually get them to schedule an exam, rather than let them just get a rejection email without any explanation from the online company. Being proactive and giving reasons resulted in much happier patients. (You could always look at it as they're trying to go behind your back in ordering the CLs so you should go behind their back in denying the request, but that kind of thinking is simply corrosive to the doctor-patient relationship, not to mention any kind of relationship in general.)

1 800 contacts has already admitted that they're filling scrips illegally (expired rx's) but no one seems to be doing anything about it.
1-800-CONTACTS is definitely illegal, and yet, for some unknown reason they are pulling it off?
Do you have any reliable sources for this? Like I mentioned above, most if not all of the time they seemed to deny the order if we sent it back to them expired.

Because of this, the docs I knew refused to release a script to an 800 service, which irritated the operators to no end.
AFAIK, unless there is a valid reason to not fill a prescription (expired, medical problem), the Fairness to Contact Lens Consumers Act (http://www.ftc.gov/opa/2004/06/contactlens.sht) requires the RX to be released, and therefore the doctors' actions were illegal. I think we had a few questions about signing off on a patient requesting something like two years worth of contacts a few days before his/her RX expired, but that had more to do with a supposed general optometric law/ethic rather than discrimination by our office against online sellers. Basically, you're supposed to treat all outside RX requests the same as if a patient came into your office wanting to fill the same order, even those wonderful "completely final last refill, absolutely no more 'final' refills until an exam, even if you fly Air Force One and are legally blind without your CLs" patients.
 
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