Eyecare Professionals Claim Online Contact Lens Start-Up May Harm Eyes
Online contact lens start-up, Hubble, was founded in 2016 and has since raised more than $70 million to compete in the contact lens industry by way of providing affordable daily lenses. However, optometrists and ophthalmologists now claim Hubble does not properly vet prescriptions and bypasses communication with eyecare professionals.
The real problem is potential harm caused by Hubble’s lenses, which the professionals claim use an outdated material that may not fit properly. Some customers have developed eye issues, including corneal ulcers and uveitis, after use.
Contact lenses are typically fitted and prescribed by optometrists, but online vendors can ignore the validity of prescriptions through what is called “passive verification,” which allows them to try to verify prescriptions in an 8-hour window. If the eyecare professional does not respond within the 8 hours, the prescriptions can still be fulfilled by the online service, allowing consumers to obtain their brand-name lenses.
To combat costs and make the consumer experience even easier, Hubble created a private label brand. The problem with this, according to Dr. Sally Dillehay—who was initially consulted by one of Hubble’s founders and declined working with them—is that “contact lenses are not generic items like socks or razors, [and] even small micron-level changes in something such as the edge design can completely alter the fit and safety profile of a contact lens.”
Hubble’s lenses use an outdated hydrogel material that can lead to discomfort for patients with dry eyes. Dr. Dillehay added, “If this lens was never seen on someone’s eye, regardless of material, it may never have been the proper lens for that patient.”
In May, the FTC reviewed its contact lens sales rules, noting that there is a problem with “use of prescription verification to change consumers from their prescribed lens to another brand of lens entirely,” ultimately citing it as a type of “illegal substitution.” To date, they have received 279 complaints about Hubble.
Dr. Samuel Pierce, former president of the American Optometric Association, concluded, “[Hubble’s] not promoting good eye health and frequent eye exams and all the things necessary for good vision, they’re only promoting sales of what they do.”
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