When Carol Lakkis, BScOptom, PhD, testified before a Federal Trade Commission committee in March 2018, the forum allowed her to share her own experience as an optometrist and an ocular microbiologist with more than 20 years of experience
in researching contact lens-related infection and inflammation, disinfection and discomfort and the therapeutic management of ocular disease. Dr. Lakkis is the head of applied clinical sciences within the contact lens research and development group at Johnson & Johnson Vision, where she leads exploratory research to support new product development.
She told the committee that “it’s vital that our vision care regulatory framework continues to preserve the eye doctor-patient relationship to achieve two important goals: first and foremost, to minimize health-related risks and complications associated with contact lens wear; and secondly, to bring new and innovative contact lens technologies for physicians and patients.”
Preserving the eye doctor-patient relationship
As new contact lens designs and materials have been introduced in the market, optometrists have opportunities to fit a greater number of patients and play a critical role in selecting the most appropriate contact lenses to meet each patient’s unique and evolving needs. The impressive successes in contact lens development and safety make it easier to assume that fitting or refitting contact lenses is “simple” because so many people achieve excellent vision. While patients’ eyes may seem to be healthy enough to wear their lenses, it is important that they consistently go to the eye doctor for a comprehensive eye exam. She says. “In clinical practice, I would regularly explain to my patients that finding the appropriate lenses for their eyes doesn’t just promote their overall comfort and enhance their lens-wearing experience, but, more importantly, it can minimize the negative impact on their eye health not just over the next year but for the next 50 years.”
It is important to avoid potential contact lens-related complications, such as inflammation and infection. Inflammation, which is more common than infection, may not sound serious, but without treatment, she told the committee, it can escalate to something more serious or cause permanent eye damage. Plus, she noted that comprehensive eye exams can uncover other potential systemic health
Contact lens safety
In addition to access, it’s important that the regulatory checks are in place to help reduce the risk of adverse effects of contact lenses. “When looking at adverse events globally, the research suggests there are higher risks in markets where patients don’t need
prescriptions for contact lenses or in those markets that don’t require a comprehensive exam with an eye care professional,” she says. “For example, in many Asian countries, patients don’t need prescriptions for contact lenses, and, as a result, higher infection rates
are reported.1,2 Indeed, in unregulated markets such as Taiwan,3 contact lenses can be the leading cause of corneal infections, which is not always the case in studies from regulated markets like the U.S. and Australia, where ocular surface trauma and disease are common causes of infection,” she says.
That reinforces the need to balance the sources of supply of contact lenses with guidance and supervision from an eye doctor, she says. “At Johnson & Johnson Vision, we take our role as a leader in eye health seriously. It provides us with a platform to advocate for better standards of care for all patients. As part of this commitment, we support the eye doctor-patient relationship and continued
patient access to innovative lenses, which best address their evolving eye health needs.”
Read more at jnjvisioncareinfo.com/2018-ftc-contact-lens-rule-review.
1 Watt KG, Swarbrick HA. Trends in microbial keratitis associated with orthokeratology. Eye Contact Lens. 2007;33:373–377. doi: 10.1097/ICL.0b013e318157cd8d.
2 Young G, Young AGH, Lakkis C. Review of Complications Associated With Contact Lenses From Unregulated Sources of Supply. Eye and Contact Lens. 2014; 40: 58–64.
3 Lin TY, Yeh LK, Ma DH, Chen PY, Lin HC, Sun CC, et al. Risk Factors and Microbiological Features of Patients Hospitalized for Microbial Keratitis: A 10-Year Study in a Referral Center in Taiwan. Medicine (Baltimore) 2015;94(43):e1905.