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Who may sell contact lens solutions?

U2.7.5 “Who may sell contact lens solutions?” (2014)

A query that was raised recently concerned who may sell contact lens solutions. It seems straightforward enough: they are sold widely in chemists and supermarkets and indeed online. Surely anyone may sell them?

The situation that gave rise to the query was that a customer entered a practice wanting to buy a bottle of solution for her lenses. The optical assistant (OA) asked which solution she usually used, as she’d been trained to do. The customer replied that she wore daily disposable lenses but wished to take them out for an hour or two during the day to enable her to wear them more comfortably later in the day. At that point, the OA asked the practice contact lens optician (CLO), who was nearby, what she, should do.

You will agree – a complicated one this! In such circumstances, I find it helpful to establish the basics of the situation…

A daily disposable contact lens has a licence for exactly that, to wear once and then discard. That then is the manufacturer’s recommendation; the practitioner fitting these lenses would give that same advice, unless there was some overwhelming clinical reason not to do so.

Since this customer was not a patient of the practice, there was no knowledge of what advice she had received. Short of telephoning her practitioner to check if they were happy for their patient to use their contact lenses in that way, it was difficult to rely on what the customer said. Customers will often turn the advice they have received round to their own perceived advantage.

What to do? I think the best course of action would be to explain politely that daily disposable lenses are for single use and may not be disinfected to be worn again. You, therefore, cannot recommend a solution and cannot sell them one.

I’m sure the customer wouldn’t be happy with the advice but it would probably be better received from the professional rather than the OA. The OA behaved correctly in seeking advice when the query was outside their remit. It was not for the CLO to recommend an action against the manufacturer’s advice without more information and the full background.

The irony is that this customer may walk up the road to a supermarket and buy a bottle of solution off the shelf with no questions asked.

By coming to an optician practice, the customer was seeking advice as well as a purchase, almost certainly in the knowledge that what they were asking was against the advice of their own practitioner. Perhaps they might take heed of the advice, or maybe not. The practice, however, would have behaved correctly.

#contact lenses