More than two months have passed since the new regulation on contact and ophthalmic lens prescribing officially took effect in British Columbia, Canada.

The rule has been highly criticized by members of the British Columbia Association of Optometrists (BCAO) and many North American O.D.s (see “ British Columbia Goes Ahead With Lens Rule,” May 2010).

But, have any British Columbian O.D.s actually felt the sting of the new prescribing regulations?

“I have not seen a drop in my contact lens sales—yet,” says one optometrist, Rick Wong, of Surrey, British Columbia. “It’s still early. But, my staff has noticed that an increasing number of our contact lens patients tell us directly that they will be purchasing their contact lenses from the Internet rather than through us.”

Dr. Wong, a member of the BCAO, encouraged fellow British Columbian optometrists to speak out against the rule and tried to persuade government representatives to reconsider their decisions. “I met with local government to try to put pressure on elected officials. But, I was warned in advance that our Health Minister, Kevin Falcon, would not be swayed,” Dr. Wong says. “The consultation period was merely a formality, and I doubt if he even read the letters that had been sent to him by the major eye care organizations throughout North America.”

To overcome the clinical and legal limitations set forth by the new rule, Dr. Wong believes that British Columbian optometrists must gain increased professional legitimacy.

“In my opinion, optometry in this province needs to embrace a medical model. Patients with a red eye are still seeing their family doctors first (and not their optometrist), and family doctors continue to refer to ophthalmology first for diabetic screening eye exams,” says Dr. Wong.

“We need to do a better job in convincing the general public and family medicine that optometry is the primary eye care giver. If we fail, then I fear that our profession will get lumped in with the refracting opticians, which would surely be disastrous.”

The real losers in this whole mess are the patients, Dr. Wong says. “I still believe that most patients want the care of an eye doctor and not a sight tester.”