Last updated on April 14th, 2017 at 03:00 pm
You can not legally buy contact lenses in the United States without a valid prescription written by a licensed optometrist or ophthalmologist. Period.
How to Buy Contact Lenses Without A Doctor’s Prescription
It’s against the law to sell contact lenses in beauty parlors, corner store, flea markets or other non-optical outlets. And it’s a bad idea to buy contact lenses from such sellers, since you might be getting unregulated lenses from unscrupulous manufacturers that can cause damage to your eyes.
You Are Entitled To Your Contact Lens Prescription
The Fairness to Contact Lens Consumers Act gives you the right to request and receive a copy of your contact lens prescription from your optometrist so you can shop around when purchasing contacts to get the best deal, based on price, convenience and other elements.
The Act was passed by Congress in 2003 and needed the United States Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to develop standards that spell out the Act’s requirements and implement its provisions.
The FTC provided these guidelines — called the Contact Lens Rule — in July 2004. The Rule develops requirements both for eye doctors who prescribe contact lenses and merchants who offer them.
Also read: Solutions for Contact Lens Discomfort
Rules For Contact Lens Prescribers
The Contact Lens Rule says that eye care specialists who are allowed under state law to fit and issue prescriptions for contact lenses need to:
- Give a copy of the contact lens prescription to the patient at the end of the contact lens fitting — even if the patient doesn’t ask for it.
- Provide or verify the contact lens prescription to anyone who is designated to act upon behalf of the patient, including contact lens sellers.
- When responding to a contact lens verification demand from a seller, remedy any mistake in the prescription being confirmed and inform the seller if the prescription has actually ended or is otherwise void.
Rules For Contact Lens Sellers
The Contact Lens Rule requires contact lens sellers to:
- Provide contact lenses just in accordance with a valid prescription that is directly provided to the seller or has been confirmed by the contact lens prescriber.
- If confirmation is needed — such as when a consumer decides to purchase contact lenses online without prescription and offers their contact lens info by submitting a web page form — sellers should contact the recommending doctor to validate the accuracy of the prescription before filling the order.
See also: Daily Disposable Contact Lenses
Contact Lens Verification
Under the Contact Lens Rule, if a contact lens prescriber cannot interact with a contact lens seller within eight company hours of getting a complete verification demand from the seller, the contact lens prescription is considered verified and the retailer can offer the contacts to the customer without a response from the prescriber.
The Rule likewise needs contact lens sellers to maintain records of the contact lens prescriptions they fill, the prescription confirmation demands they send out to physicians and prescriber reactions to these requests.
All stipulations of the Contact Lens Rule apply to so-called “non-prescription” contact lenses — lenses made for Halloween and other color contact lenses or special-effect contact lenses without any restorative power — along with basic contact lenses.
Remember, no matter what you call them, all contact lenses bought and offered in the United States need a legitimate contact lens prescription from an eye doctor.
You can get more information about the Fairness to Contact Lens Consumers Act and the Contact Lens Rule by visiting the FTC site or calling 1-877-FTC-HELP.