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12/30/2003 Archived Entry: "A small rant about companies who think we're dumb"


I've been working with a very patient eye doctor to find the perfect contact lens prescription. After five visits, he and I have narrowed lens choices down to two, each with roughly equal vision advantages and drawbacks. So I decided to make my final selection based on relative safety of the lenses -- one of which is a new hyper oxygen-transmissible lens (HOTL), and one of which is ... well ... I didn't know the "Dk" (oxygen-transmissibility) of the other lens brand.

I spent several hours last Saturday Googling everything I could find on lens specifications, clinical trials, potential complications with different lenses and wear patterns, etc. The Net, bless it, turned out as always to be a tremendous boon to People Who Really Want to Know Things. I read thick studies in opthalmological journals and plowed though multi-page charts of specs for dozens of brands and varieties of lenses. No way can I claim to have understood everything, but the research gave me a good overview and useful specifics, and ... by damn, it was all there for anyone who wanted to know.

Except the tech specs on that second type of lens.

I went to the lens maker's (Coopervision's) own Web site. Hm. Nothing but two paragraphs of "sell" copy on that brand and a couple of happy-wearer pictures.

But aha! There's a link to a .pdf for a "patient data sheet." That'll be just what the doctor ordered. Click!

Uh ... there were the same two paragraphs of "sell" copy and a couple of different happy-wearer pictures. Huh? Did they make some mistake?

So I wrote to Coopervision, asking the only thing I really wanted to know: the "Dk" of their lens.

Here's Coopervision's reply: "The information contained on our web site, for all of our contact lenses, is a general description for the lenses. The reason is because contact lenses are regulated medical devices. Information regarding contact lenses should be obtained from a licensed eye care provider, or doctor. Your eye care provider will be able to assist you with your questions regarding the [product name] and will also be able to provide literature as well. I apologize for this inconvenience."

Right. The manufacturer can't can't even publish lens specs -- even though hundreds of similar specs are printed all over the Internet. And even though those specs are crucial to help a buyer make the most healthy choice.

So I Googled to see whether the FDA might prohibit a company from publishing facts on its own "registered medical devices" (a ridiculous notion and against all good sense if safety is the goal; but hey, we're dealing with government here, so you never know). No, the FDA not only doesn't forbid publication of specs on "registered medical devices." It publishes many of those specs itself, in fact. (But not the ones I was looking for.) The National Institutes for Health also publishes medical device specs and stats. As does the American Academy of Opthalmology. As do some other contact lens manufacturers.

But Coopervision thinks I'm too dumb to be trusted to know something as simple and basic as the oxygen-transmissibility of its lenses without being hand-fed the info by my poor, patient, overworked doctor, who happens to be on vacation now, anyway.

Coopervision thinks that someone who cares enough, and is smart enough, to be researching things like "Dk" is, by definition, stupider than a box of rocks.

Thank you so much for your help, Coopersnobs. Now I certainly know which brand of lenses to choose. And which to avoid.

Posted by Claire @ 08:46 AM CST

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