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Your Right to Your Contact Lens Prescription
A Montgomery County woman requested the prescription for her daughter's contact lenses from her ophthalmologist. She wanted to replace a torn lens by ordering through a mail-order supplier. The ophthalmologist refused to give her the prescription, saying the lens had to be ordered through his office. The consumer paid $25 rather than the $10 she might have paid to the supplier, and the process delayed getting the lens to her daughter, who was in college in Ohio.
For years, many consumers were unable to get their contact lens prescriptions from their eye doctors when it came time to order replacement lenses. They had to order the replacement lenses from the doctor who had written the prescription and pay whatever price was quoted. Eye doctors are not required by federal law to release contact lens prescription to patients, as they must for eyeglasses. Many people found that frustrating, since they wanted the freedom to shop around and take advantage of the potential savings and convenience offered by direct-to-the-consumer lens suppliers. Wearers of disposable soft lenses especially were interested in that option, since they replace their lenses frequently.
Now, a new state law gives you the right to obtain your contact lens prescription so you can buy replacement lenses from the source of your choice and without having to make another visit to the eye doctor. Maryland is one of several states that have passed such a law.
Getting Your Prescription
The new law concerns only replacement lens prescriptions. For each new prescription, you still must visit an optometrist or ophthalmologist for an eye examination, ordering of lenses, and immediate follow-up care (the period of fitting time required to determine the correct contact lens prescription). When the eye doctor is satisfied that the lens prescription is correct and he releases you from follow-up care, you may request a copy of the prescription. Here's how the law works:
If you have any questions about this law, call the Attorney General's Health Education and Advocacy Unit at (410) 528-1840.
Your eye doctor may give you a written statement that wearing improperly fitted contact lenses may cause harm to your eyes and that you should have an eye examination if there are any changes to your vision, including pain or vision loss. However, if you order replacement lenses from someone other than your eye doctor, the lenses should be exactly the same because your dispenser will be using the prescription written by your doctor.The new law gives you the freedom to buy replacement lenses from the supplier of your choice. But remember that contact lenses are important health care devices that require proper fitting and care. You still need to see your eye doctor for regular eye examinations and advice on proper lens use to keep your eyes healthy.
Types of Eyecare Specialists
Ophthalmologists are medical doctors (M.D.'s) or osteopathic physicians (D.O.'s) who diagnose and treat diseases of the eye. They can prescribe drugs, perform examinations and eye surgery, and prescribe and dispense eyeglasses and contact lenses.
Optometrists hold a doctor of optometry degree (O.D.). Though they are not medical doctors, they can examine eyes to detect, diagnose, and treat vision problems and eye diseases. They can prescribe and dispense eyeglasses and contact lenses.
Opticians are not doctors. They fill prescriptions for eyewear written by ophthalmologists and optometrists. They may not examine eyes or prescribe eyeglasses or contact lenses.
Attorney General of Maryland 1 (888) 743-0023 toll-free / TDD: (410) 576-6372