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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 $45 rather than the $10 she would have paid to the supplier, and the process delayed getting the lens to her daughter, who attended college in Ohio.

For years, many consumers were unable to get their contact lens prescriptions from their eye doctor when they needed to order replacement lenses. They had to order the replacement lenses from the doctor who wrote the prescription and pay whatever price was quoted. 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.

State and Federal law give you the right to obtain your contact lens prescription so you can buy replacement lenses from whomever you choose.

Getting Your Prescription

For each new prescription, you 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). Once it is determined that the lenses fit and that no additional follow-up is needed, you may request a copy of the prescription. Here's how the law works:

  • At your request, and at no cost to you, the eye doctor must provide a copy of the replacement contact lens prescription to you or someone you designate -- a mail-order lens supplier, for example -- within seven business days of your request. The prescription may be transmitted by mail, telephone, fax or e-mail.
  • The prescription must include all the information necessary for it to be properly filled, including the name of the lens manufacturer, the type of lens, the power, base curve, lens size, your name, the date the prescription was given to you, the eye doctor's name and office location, and the expiration date of the prescription.
  • The original prescription should be valid for two years from the time you were first examined unless your eye doctor gives you a valid clinical reason for a shorter expiration date.
  • If, after your next examination, your prescription has not changed since your last examination, the eye doctor must give you the prescription upon your request without requiring you to purchase contact lenses or undergo immediate follow-up care.

If you have any questions about this law, call the Attorney General's Health Education and Advocacy Unit at 410-528-1840 or 1-877-261-8807.

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.

These laws give 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.

October 2013

Maryland Attorney General's Consumer Protection Division
Health Education and Advocacy Unit

Consumer hotline: 410-528-1840 or 877-261-8807 toll-free


Attorney General of Maryland 1 (888) 743-0023 toll-free / TDD: (410) 576-6372
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