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    Statement in Response to CBC News Go Public

    “We have taken this position because health risks have been associated with patients purchasing from unregulated providers, including poor fitting glasses, inaccurate prescriptions and missed eye health diagnoses,” says Dr. Surjinder Sahota, president of the BC Association of Optometrists.

    Not only have BC Doctors of Optometry witnessed these results firsthand when their patients have come in with these issues relating to their glasses purchased online, but the results of a study published a year ago in the Journal of the American Optometric Association confirms this. The study found that nearly half (44.8%) of prescription eyeglasses bought from the top ten US online eyewear retailers failed to meet either the patients’ visual needs or optical requirements for safety, like impact testing.

    As Doctors of Optometry, our key priority is our patients’ vision and eye health. We offer a bricks and mortar full service approach to diagnosis and treatment. This includes the eye health examination, writing a prescription for vision correction, if required, helping patients select eyeglass frames and lenses, or contact lenses, custom fitting and after care service.

    This is a value-based, one stop model that provides our patients both quality and convenience, and is completely different from the online retail model that is driven by price alone. The fitting of eyeglasses and contact lenses is complex, and requires very specific and accurate measurements to get the best performance and the best visual outcome.

    Prices for eyeglasses from a Doctor of Optometry or optician vary greatly – from lower priced frames and lenses that can be purchased in large retailers to higher priced designer frames and lenses with special coatings that can be purchased in eyewear boutiques. Price should not be a deterrent for purchasing from a Doctor of Optometry, especially for children.

    “Most dispensing Doctors of Optometry offer frames and lens packages for patients under their social service benefits from the Ministry, without having to pay extra,”says Dr. Surjinder Sahota, president of the BC Association of Optometrists. “These glasses may be basic, but they are correctly made, meet safety standards and guaranteed by Doctors of Optometry. Any upgrades beyond the basic needs are options available to patients.”

    Where price is the driver for the consumer’s purchase, we encourage consumers to call around to ensure they find a Doctor of Optometry that matches frames and lenses to their available budget. Regardless of price, every purchase of eyeglasses or contact lenses from a Doctor of Optometry comes with service and full after care support, which is not available online.

    Should the glasses not fit properly or the prescription not be accurate, the consumer would still need to spend additional money to visit a bricks and mortar optical store to have the glasses corrected.

    Regular routine eye exams are the best way to protect life-long vision. The existing regulatory systems across the country were established with patients’ safety at their core. Prescription eyeglasses are classified and regulated as medical devices by Health Canada. Glasses purchased online may not meet Health Canada’s standards.