How It Works In B.C.
On March 19, 2010, the BC Ministry of Health Services announced sweeping changes to the eyewear industry, changing who is allowed to prescribe and dispense eyeglasses.
The key changes in BC were:
• Anyone can dispense glasses, not just registered optometrists and opticians.
• Companies in BC can fill prescriptions from outside of the province (which allows, for example, online operators to ship to people elsewhere in Canada).
• People can order glasses or contacts online, without having to verify the prescription.
• Opticians are now allowed to do sight tests to healthy individuals 19-65 who do not have a pre-existing condition such as diabetes. When assessing a person's prescription, they must clearly state that a sight test is not a comprehensive eye exam.
• Opticians and optometrists must give people, free of charge, a copy of their prescription, and that copy must include their pupillary distance (PD) measurement, making it easier for people who want to order online.
Optometrists' groups such as the Canadian Association of Optometrists strongly opposed the changes, arguing that eyeglasses are medical devices not consumer goods. They also expressed concern that sight tests divorced from a comprehensive eye exam put the public at risk, specifically of diseases such as glaucoma, which may not have symptoms until quite late.
However, then Health Services Minister Kevin Falcon, rejected arguments that the changes would be detrimental to public health. "Ministry staff have examined the medical evidence and have determined there is no strong scientific evidence that regular eye health examinations for asymptomatic individuals between the ages of 19 and 65 improve health outcomes," a spokesman for the BC Ministry of Health Services wrote in an email, which was quoted in the Canadian Medical Association Journal.
BC Health Services announcement about regulatory changes