Right before the adjournment of the 109th Congress, the Senate and the House of Representatives rejected provisions added to two unrelated bills that would have rewritten the 2003 Fairness to Contact Lens Consumers Act (FCLCA).

Both versions of the Contact Lens Consumer Protection Act, which were attached to the Methamphetamine Remediation Research Act (H.R. 798) and the Preemie Act (S. 707), would have required manufacturers to make their entire contact lens lines available indiscriminately to prescribers and to alternate channels of distribution, if passed.

These provisions would have been considerably more lax on Internet-based contact lens retailers than H.R. 6117, the Contact Lens Consumer Health Protection Act, which was introduced in September, but never passed. The same representatives who introduced H.R. 6117, Ed Whitfield (R-Ky.) and Tom Allen (D-Maine), led the House objections to the new provisions with the help of Rep. John Dingell (D-Mich.).

The Methamphetamine Remediation Research Act was passed by the Senate on December 8, but only after the suspect provision was removed. The American Optometric Association (AOA) had quickly urged members to contact their senators; the AOA attributes the provisions defeat to the response of its affiliates.

In the House, the provision to the Preemie Act was introduced after midnight in the final hours of the session. It was likewise immediately denounced by the AOA, which urged the House directly to reject the late-coming provision. By 3:30 a.m., it had been discarded.

Patients are safer today because Congress heard the concerns of optometrists and made an informed decision, says C. Thomas Crooks, III, O.D., president of the AAO. Although this is an important victory, when it comes to legislation, well need to continue to be ready to fight for our patients and our profession all day, and even late, late into the night.

H.R. 6117 is expected to be reintroduced later this year. For now, the FCLCA stands as it is, with no amendments in favor of eye care practitioners or Internet retailers.

Vol. No: 144:01Issue: 1/15/2007