In 2005, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration adopted the Contact Lens Rule, giving contact lens patients the right to "portability," the ability to buy contact lenses from whomever they choose, not just from the doctor who prescribed the lenses. However, there are laws governing the sale of contact lenses too. Before you can successfully sell contact lenses, you have to know some important details about lens retailing.
What to Know Before You Sell Contact Lenses
Educate yourself with federal and your state's laws on selling contact lenses. When you sell contacts, you are filling a contact lens prescription. Check with your state licensing board and optometric association. The American Board of Opticianry (ABO) and the National Contact Lens Examiners (NCLE) are national certification organizations for licensed optical dispensers. Twenty-one states require licensing to dispense contact lenses. In non-licensed states, the NCLE provides certification for professional credentials.
Be ready to explain the difference between a regular eye examination and a contact lens fitting, which is required for a contact lens prescription. A regular eye exam checks vision and eye health. A contact exam and fitting includes additional testing, including measuring the eye with special optical equipment that determines the curves of the eye to match the contact lenses. In addition, contact lenses, called diagnostic lenses or trial lenses, are placed on the eye to determine the best-fitting lens.
Eye doctors also require additional appointments called follow-up visits after the lenses have been worn for a predetermined amount of time before the final contact lens prescription is written.
Do not change a contact lens prescription or alter any numbers or contact lens information. However, a contact lens seller may substitute a contact lens made by the same manufacturer and sold under a different name. Store brand lenses are sold under multiple brand names in many retail stores but the lenses are the same (see Reference 3).
Effective Contact Lens Retailing
Get in touch with several contact lens distributors to compare and establish the best retail prices for your contact lenses. Websites like www.opticalvisionresources.com have databases of contact lens wholesalers.
Subscribe to professional magazines such as Contact Lens Spectrum and 20/20 Magazine. These publications provide insight, marketing and up-to-date information for eye care professionals and retailers.
Attend national conventions and conferences like the East West Eye Conference, which is held in the fall each year. Conferences are a fantastic resource for education, meeting distributors and learning about the newest styles of contact lenses.
Join professional organizations such as the Contact Lens Society of America, which help promote contact lens education, technology, marketing and information for members.