In a move that has drawn fire from optometrists and opticians, the British Columbia Ministry of Health Services has enacted regulatory changes that allow consumers in the Canadian province to buy contact lenses online without having to provide a copy of a valid contact lens prescription.
The new changes to regulations for optometrists and opticians under the Health Professions Act include:
- Removal of restrictions that allow only optometrists or opticians, or workers supervised by them, to dispense eyeglasses and contact lenses.
- Permission for prescriptions issued by ophthalmologists and optometrists outside British Columbia (B.C.) to be filled within the province.
- Permission for consumers to order glasses or contacts online without having to provide the seller with a copy of a valid prescription for eyeglasses or contact lenses.
- A new requirement for opticians and optometrists to include the measured distance between the patient’s pupils (pupil distance, or PD) on their eyeglasses prescription. (This measurement is required for the proper fitting of eyeglasses by a third party.)
The new regulations also require B.C. optometrists to give their patients a copy of their contact lens prescription (whether or not it is requested by the patient) and also to give a copy of the prescription, free of charge, to a third-party eyewear seller if requested by the patient.
The revised regulations, which went into effect on May 1, are opposed by the British Columbia Association of Optometrists (BCAO).
In voicing the organization’s concerns about the new regulations, Dr. Antoinette Dumalo, president of the BCAO, said, “Allowing people to buy contacts online without having to prove they have a (valid) prescription is like allowing patients to keep ordering medicine from an old prescription without ever having to go back to their doctor to have a check-up on their condition or to make sure the treatment is still appropriate.”
Dr. Dumalo also said the new regulations may mean fewer people will have regular eye exams, increasing the risk that sight-threatening eye diseases will go undetected.