16 August 2019
The Association of Optometrists (AOP) welcomes the report from Fake Britain, broadcast on 14 August 2019, which raised awareness of the risks to consumers who have been unknowingly sold counterfeit contact lenses.
In the UK, contact lenses can be supplied only under the supervision of a registered eye care or medical practitioner but we are aware that some online outlets are selling contact lenses that are not fit for purpose and are illegal.
The General Optical Council (GOC) is the regulator for the optical profession in the UK and can take action including private prosecution or liaison with the Crown Prosecution Service, Trading Standards or other public prosecuting bodies. Online suppliers suspected of selling counterfeit lenses should be reported to the GOC.
Clinical and Regulatory Adviser at the AOP, Roshni Kanabar, said: “This draws attention to an important issue. Patients should be aware that there are suppliers out there who are selling products that put their eye health at very serious risk. Eye infections, like the one featured in the Fake Britain report, have been known to cause permanent damage to the eyes including blindness. It is crucial that contact lenses are suitably fitted for the wearer and stored and washed in sterile solution. This is why patients should always go to a reputable supplier for their contact lenses and follow advice from their eye care practitioner.”
Advising on how to spot counterfeit lenses, Ms Kanabar said: “Generally, if your normal brand of contact lens is considerably cheaper, it’s more than likely that they are counterfeit.” She added: “Patients who have decided to acquire their contact lenses online should also make sure they provide a current prescription to avoid problems – you should be asked for this as part of the purchase.”
In an AOP survey of over 1000 UK optometrists, more than half reported seeing patients who had issues when they had bought glasses or contact lenses online.
The AOP continues to work with the GOC on the issue of zero-powered lenses illegally sold on the High Street and online. The AOP jointly produced an information leaflet Do you know the law on selling contact lenses?, which sets out the facts and the GOC’s legal remit in this area. The leaflet can be used by optical practitioners who wish to advise suppliers of the law, http://www.aop.org.uk/ZPL-leaflet
Patient advice on the wear and care of contact lenses is also available on the AOP website, http://www.aop.org.uk/patients
For more information, please contact Serena Box, PR and Media Manager, at the Association of Optometrists, SerenaBox@aop.org.uk or telephone 020 7549 2063.
Notes to Editors.
Association of Optometrists
The Association of Optometrists (AOP) is the leading representative membership organisation for optometrists in the UK. We support over 80% of practising optometrists, to fulfil their professional roles to protect the nation’s eye health. For more information, visit http://www.aop.org.uk