By Janice Schmidt
Plano cosmetic contact lenses are available online, in grocery stores, gas stations, tattoo parlours, beach shops, and drug stores. The locations where these fashion lenses can be found and the number of lenses that are available is unlimited. They appear to be everywhere.
You can buy contact lenses that are mirrored lenses, theatrical lenses, lenses that have flower power, and contact lenses that fly the American flag, all without the assistance, fitting, education, and recommendations of an eye care professional.
As eye care professionals, we have many concerns regarding the illegal dispensing of contact lenses and the sale of non-corrective cosmetic lenses by unregulated persons. We worry about the target market for these contact lenses, referring to tweens and teens.
They know fashion and trends and are extremely vulnerable to sophisticated marketing plans that continually influence them by suggesting what it’s like being a girl or boy growing up in today’s world. It is extremely important that we aggressively push government to pass laws to protect the eye health of tomorrow’s professionals today. There is literally no difference between contact lenses that correct vision to those that provide an aesthetic change; the risk of harm is the same, if not greater.
First, corneas are not created equal. Few corneas are spherical and the average cornea flattens from the apex to the periphery. Therefore, every patient is unique in terms of corneal topography and tear chemistry, and it is the responsibility of the eye care professional to consider all these factors when selecting a contact lens material, modality of wear, and the contact lens solution. The significant point here being one base curve or fitting does not fit all patients.
Secondly, we all know that there is a range of ocular complications associated with poorly fitted lenses. There is little to no education with the selling of fashion lenses which makes the purchase of these unregulated products more dangerous in the hands of the patient.
Prescription or corrective contact lenses are medical devices and there is evidence that if contact lens users are buying their lenses through alternative routes, as previously mentioned, then they may be more susceptible to eye infections. In my mind, it’s a no- brainer that all contact lenses should be considered medical devices whether they are corrective or non- corrective.
For nearly 10 years, eye care professionals have been recommending to government that non-corrective cosmetic contact lenses should be classified the same as prescription or corrective contact lenses.
I’m happy to say that we’re almost there!
Bill C-313 was introduced as a private member’s bill by Patricia Davidson, MP for Sarnia- Lambton, as an act to amend the Food and Drugs Act (non-corrective contact lenses). The original motion read: That, in the opinion of the House, the Minister of Health should regulate non-corrective, cosmetic contact lenses as medical devices under the Hazardous Products Act or the Food and Drug Act.
The bill recommends that non- corrective cosmetic contact lenses be classified as a type II medical device which makes sense as it would align all contact lenses in the same federal regulatory framework and environment.
A class II medical device must be dispensed by a regulated individual. Moving forward with this bill will give the dispensing of non- corrective cosmetic contact lenses back into the hands of the eye care professional where it should be.
Health Canada will also step in and provide guidance on regulatory requirements for private label manufacturers of Class II medical devices. Private label manufacturers must comply with the requirements of the medical devices regulations and they must apply for and obtain a medical devices licence in Canada. Health Canada will also continue to monitor and assess the safety of the medical devices on the market, to protect the health and safety of Canadians, taking action if necessary to mitigate any health and safety risks.
Lorne Kashin, RO, President/ Executive Director of the Ontario Opticians Association (OOA), and Vice President of the Opticians Association of Canada (OAC), accompanied by me, Janice Schmidt, RO, Advisor to the OAC and
Coordinator of the Opticianry program at Georgian College in Barrie, Ontario, recently attended the House of Commons committee on Health (HESA) on February 14 as witnesses in support of Bill C-313 which will classify non-corrective cosmetic contact lenses as a class II medical device. The bill was at second reading, our last opportunity for input. Dr. Peter Agapitos represented Ophthalmology and
Dr. Desmond Fonn was there representing the Canadian Association for Optometrists. This was a great opportunity for all us to work together as a team in support of Bill C-313 in the public interest.
Each group had ten minutes to speak providing statements in support of the bill moving forward. The committee discussed the information provided, made several amendments to the bill, then voted unanimously to move forward to consideration and third reading, after which it will need to go to the Senate for the same process. Once passed in the House and the Senate, it will receive Royal Assent and become law.
Bill C-313 is a step in the right direction by regulating non- corrective contact lenses because we know that if we fit lenses properly and provide the necessary education, the risks associated with cosmetic lenses will be minimized.
We were truly honoured to be able to support this safety initiative in the public interest, knowing these lenses can continue to be fashionable but will be much safer in the future.
If you’d like to see the full text of Janice and Lorne’s comments regarding Bill C-313 and non- corrective contact lenses, go to the OOA website at ontario- opticians.com. •