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FTC takes decisive action after AOA steps up efforts to combat illegal CL sales

September 1, 2011

Responding to increased pressure from hundreds of doctors of optometry seeking to better protect patients in communities across the nation, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has taken decisive action aimed at putting a stop to the illegal activities of a leading Internet marketer’s practice of selling cosmetic contact lenses directly to consumers without a prescription.

The enforcement action against Scott Smiledge-Ferragamo and Jokeshop USA, LLC is a major step forward in the FTC’s efforts to better protect American consumers from the health risks posed by illegally dispensed contact lenses.

The FTC’s enforcement of the Contact Lens Rule was, in part, made possible by AOA-backed legislation championed by then-Rep. John Boozman, O.D. (R-Ark.) – now a leading pro-optometry voice in the U.S. Senate.

The Contact Lens Rule requires that contact lens sellers verify with a patient’s optometrist or other eye care provider that the consumer has been given a valid prescription for all contact lenses, including cosmetic lenses that do not correct vision.

At the urging of the AOA, the rule was later improved to ensure strict enforcement and clarify that cosmetic contact lenses must also be treated as medical devices and subject to the rule’s requirements.

Since pushing Congress to enact these and other needed consumer safeguards, the AOA has worked closely with the FTC and other federal agencies to help protect patients from the dangers of cosmetic and other illegally dispensed contact lenses.

In a campaign directed at consumers, the AOA and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration warn that improper use of contact lenses, whether they are corrective or not, can cause corneal ulcers, corneal abrasions, vision impairment, and blindness.

The final federal settlement against Scott Smiledge-Ferragamo and Jokeshop USA, LLC ultimately resulted in the levy of a sizeable fine, which has forced the Internet marketers to close down operations. The settlement also strictly prohibits the defendants from ever selling cosmetic or other contact lenses without obtaining or verifying prescriptions directly with their customers’ local eye doctor, and from further violations of the Contact Lens Rule.

“The AOA is proud of its work with federal officials to stop scams that put our patients’’vision at risk,” said Dori Carlson, O.D., president of the AOA. “We will continue to bring all credible complaints from optometrists and the general public about illegal sales of contact lenses to the FTC’s attention and support this type of decisive enforcement action to put unscrupulous Internet marketers out of business.”

For more information on this important issue or to report potential violations of the FTC’s Contact Lens Rule, AOA members should contact Lauren Finkelstein of the AOA at 800-365-2219 or by e-mail at lfinkelstein@aoa.org.

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