Ordering contacts online
April 2, 2005 9:26 AM   Subscribe

I tried ordering contacts online last week .. a day after placing the order, they called me and said my eye doctor's office said my prescription had expired. So, I'm a little annoyed at my eye doctor -- my last appointment was not more than a year ago and before that my prescription hadn't changed in 8 years. I'm comfortable with my eyesight and feel confident I have the same prescription. I just would like some more contacts. Is there away around this ? Is my eye doctor trying to make some money by getting me to come in again ? or order the contacts through him? How is this different than me ordering a TWO year supply of contacts last year ? It seems like red tape to me . .thanks for any advice.
posted by jason9009 to Health & Fitness (17 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
jason9009 posted "Is my eye doctor trying to make some money by getting me to come in again?"

Yup. That's pretty much the reason for state contact lens prescription laws. Follow the money. And call your state representative, and remind him that while optometrists and their lobbyists pay him, you vote.

Oh, and call your optometrist, and tell him that while you don't mind paying his fees for an examination, you don't like being held up for the contact lens mark-up, and that in the future, you'll find another optometrist.
posted by orthogonality at 9:44 AM on April 2, 2005

I echo orthogonality. Ostensibly, it's for your own good (people need regular checkups!), but it's a giant racket.
posted by trharlan at 9:51 AM on April 2, 2005

Yeah...my optometrist is much nicer than that...he'll let me go a couple years before requiring an exam.
posted by SeizeTheDay at 10:36 AM on April 2, 2005

When I went to get some contacts from my doctor, they didn't have my perscription in the computer for some reason, so I had them print me a new one. The doctor signed it and indicated on the paper that it was only good for a single box of contacts, which, in her words, was "just enough to last you until the beginning of May," since that was when I'd be due for an examination.

My perscription hasn't changed in years. I'm quite confident that, like you, I'd be able to get a year's supply and be perfectly happy skipping the exam. I'd done this the previous year, but this time around I had been lax and lost the paper perscription. So, I said no thanks, took my paper perscription to the office, applied white-out to the number of boxes limitation, and faxed it to 1800contacts to complete an online order for a year's supply of lenses.

So, here's the thing... 1800contacts will only call your doctor if they don't have a copy of your perscription in their hands. What you should do is get a paper copy, make sure it doesn't specify any kind of limitation on the number of boxes, and fax that in to 1800contacts immediately after you phone in your order. They'll mail your contacts out the next day.
posted by odinsdream at 10:51 AM on April 2, 2005

In many states prescriptions for vision correcting lenses are valid for 1 year or more. From experience, I fairly certain that is the case in Massachusetts and Florida, and I found links through Google indicating it was true in WA and CA too. You might check your state laws.

I also found this at the bottom of this FDA page:
You won't break any laws if you buy lenses on the Internet, by phone, or through the mail without a prescription, but you should know that the company is selling you a prescription device as if it were an over-the-counter device. This violates federal regulation. Be wary when companies tell you they will check with your doctor to confirm the prescription. They don't always check.
posted by McGuillicuddy at 10:52 AM on April 2, 2005

There's nothing you can do, unfortunately. I've been in this exact trap, and also in the much worse place where they refuse to release your prescription to you. My advice is to go get another prescription from a different optometrist and make a note to yourself to order new contacts 11 months from now.
posted by mygothlaundry at 10:53 AM on April 2, 2005

OK...here's what I did. IANAL, YMMV yadda yadda...
I haven't had a new prescription in about 5 years, but I keep reordering online, the key is to find a place that will sell you contacts, I put in the location of an big optometry chain, and the generic 1-800 number. I tried at 3 sites, it worked at two of them. After that, they listed my prescription as validated! Which allows me to reorder again. I'm not going to list the two companies which did sell me lenses because I don't want them to stop, but email is in profile.
posted by patrickje at 11:33 AM on April 2, 2005

Just to play the devil's advocate - I'm sure the basis for needing a recent prescription is meant to ensure a healthier population. Prescriptions do change over time, even if subtley, diseases occur and aging can cause various physical changes that affect eyes/eyesight. Having guidelines requiring periodic reassessments probably is a preventative good health policy as much as anything.
That said, eyesight testing is free in Oz - or at least one test per 2 year period is free. So we have pretty similar guidelines and I'm very sure private industry lobbyists weren't responsible - it would be from govt. health studies undoubtedly.
(But: what gothlaundry/patrickje said: I do the same - buy in bulk yearly - but because of yearly health insurance allowance reasons)
posted by peacay at 12:18 PM on April 2, 2005

Of course, if the company isn't phoning up the doctor, faking a prescription (if you have the old one) isn't exactly tough for someone with a computer, a laser printer, and a REALLY terrible signature (just ask your kids to scribble a little on the page if you have trouble).

Heck, if they *do* call, find a disconnected phone number in your area and use that on the paper. Let the company know how the doctor "just went out of business the other week". :-)

Is that illegal? Beats me (probably). Is it ethical? Hell yeah.
posted by shepd at 1:46 PM on April 2, 2005

shepd writes "Is that illegal? Beats me (probably). "

It's a Federal crime. And remember kids, committing Federal crimes is only something for the rich.
posted by orthogonality at 1:53 PM on April 2, 2005

peacay: "Just to play the devil's advocate - I'm sure the basis for needing a recent prescription is meant to ensure a healthier population."

Yeah, but every year?
In Canada we're covered for an exam every two years I think (that's how often I go), which, if you're young and your prescription is reasonably stable, is definitely enough.
posted by SoftRain at 2:05 PM on April 2, 2005

I think I remember my eye doc telling me that contact lens Rx expire in 6 month, eye glass Rx in a year. Laws are different from state to state. (I'm assuming US here since that's where I'm from and you know, it's all about me.)

Anyway, in the US, docs can't release expired Rx but it doesn't matter anyway, businesses can't legally fill a expired Rx. A bunch of states require a doc to release a Rx but check with the doc first. I've found once I ask the doc about releasing my Rx, the price of contacts become strangely competitive.
posted by sexymofo at 2:24 PM on April 2, 2005

odinsdream I will mention that I have used 1800contacts for years and after filling my prescription for over 2 years, they said it wasn't valid anymore. So even if they do have your prescription, they still call your doc periodically, it doesn't last forever. I've been wanting to try those Acuvue Advance contacts since my Acuvue 2s are dry as fuck, but they won't even let me change that.
posted by scazza at 3:46 PM on April 2, 2005

After wearing contacts for the first time at the age of 32 my prescription changed on my next regular check-up. The doctor explained that my vision had improved and that it was likely due to the lens on my eye reshaping and correcting my lens. I thought it was due to my answering 'wrong' during the 'better now or now' bit.

I just helped a glasses wearing friend get his first pair of contacts in China. He couldn't remember his prescription so they read it off his glasses. No eye exam. He walked out with a six month supply of daily wear lenses for ~400RMB or ~$48.

On the subject of choosing specific contacts, I love my Ciba Vision Night & Day's. They are made to be slept in. After a drop in each eye after waking I never experience dryness until the month is up. The closest thing to the surgery with out the surgery.
posted by geekyguy at 5:43 PM on April 2, 2005

Order your contacts from Canada and bypass the whole prescription/pharmaceutical racket. I was able to Google up a Canadian source last summer that's pretty competitive with U.S. prices on Acuvue 2 and they don't give a rats ass about prescriptions. Been quite happy with them.
posted by rolypolyman at 6:13 PM on April 2, 2005

coastal contacts (.com) didn't used to ask for a prescription. Then they began asking, and took my doctor's name and number, but I really don't think actually checked. Very nice service and prices, too, from my experience.
posted by parma at 2:47 PM on April 3, 2005

scazza, I think I should clarify. 1800contacts does have my perscription on file, but I faxed a paper copy to them literally minutes after phoning in my order. The woman on the phone assured me that, and maybe this was just lucky, if she gets a paper copy faxed to her right then, she won't need to call the doctor's office to verify it. So, yes, it's not enough for them to have it on file, you need to fax the paper to them with each order if you don't want them calling the doctor.

I think in the future I'll take rolypolyman's route.

As for the health concerns - nobody knows my eyes better than I do. Believe me, if I had any trouble I'd be in the office as soon as possible, but I don't like being cheated out of 100$ every few months for no reason.
posted by odinsdream at 9:15 AM on April 4, 2005

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